Perspectives on Organizations, Third Agers and Retirement

By James H. Krefft, Ph.D  

An ongoing series exploring the kinds of large-scale changes organizations will have to make to survive the never-before-seen, across-the-board discontinuity that will be caused by the crush of Boomer retirements in the next 5-15 years.  Organizations that put in place a comprehensive continuity plan for making these gut-wrenching transformations will survive, even thrive.  The rest will rot or die.

Part 1 – Introduction

From the six paradoxical principles Bill Sadler articulates in The Third Age and from the individual life examples he provides, one thing emerges as unquestionable: redefining “retirement” is a profoundly personal journey, an individual endeavor both frightening and exciting, and for each of us that journey can take many paths.  Igniting individual creativity powers Second Growth, making it possible for a person’s Third Age to be a time of enormous personal expansion and reinvigorating interpersonal connections.  The best IS yet to be.

So if we are in the main talking about the personal prospects for the second half of life, how do organizations fit in?

During the Second Age, many of us were, perhaps still are, connected directly or indirectly to one or more formal organizations, private or public, profit or nonprofit.  Bill, for example, has been connected with universities and colleges, as a teacher, as an administrator, and as a leader.  I have been employed by a university, the U.S. Army, a Federal agency, a Fortune 10 corporation, and a consulting firm.

Am I linked personally and economically to these organizations?  You bet.  As an independent consultant I have worked with companies, nonprofits, and government agencies around the world.  Some of the best friends and colleagues I have, I met while working “on site” for a client.  Client companies have paid for my children’s braces and education, a wonderful home, nice vacations, and the desktop computer on which I am keying these words.

Even professionals whom we might not at first glance associate with formal organizations, such as physicians, attorneys, or CPAs with private practices, typically have close personal and economic ties to formal organizations: physicians partner with pharmaceutical companies, laboratories, and hospitals; attorneys collaborate with clients, government agencies, and court systems; CPAs work with clients, tax agencies, and nonprofit organizations.

If hospitals run short of nurses or get into financial trouble, the healing effectiveness, and income, of its partner physicians is threatened.  If a court system becomes backlogged and dysfunctional, the legal effectiveness, and fees, of defense attorneys is at risk.  If client companies get into financial trouble, a CPA’s livelihood is in peril.

In the Second Age, most of us gave to and took from, perhaps still give to and take from, one or more formal organizations.  Are Third Agers better off with organizations or without them?  And, are organizations better off with or without Third Agers?

The connections with formal organizations can continue to the mutual benefit of both Third Agers and organizations.  But the relationship has to change, on the part of both parties.  Just as individuals can benefit from redefining retirement, so too can organizations profit from rethinking how they use retirement programs as a business management tool.

More pertinent for organizations, any organization that does not redefine retirement will be facing intensified threats to its own survival, some as early as in the next 5 years.  That sound you hear is the discontinuity grizzly crashing through the underbrush in your direction.  Do you know what to do when it starts slashing at your tent?

Who, then, should take an interest in this question:  How should organizations redefine retirement?  And, why?

In May,  we’ll start with “the why” in Part 2 of this series: “A Perfect Drought.”  

© 2004 James H. Krefft, Ph.D. and The Center for Third Age Leadership, LLC

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Jim Krefft is an author, consultant and President of The Center for Third Age Leadership.