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OLLI symposium: 'Boomers mean business'

July 5, 2006

Photo of two women who attended the OLLI symposiumCareer counselors, labor experts, community activists and trend spotters painted a new picture of retirement at the June 16 annual symposium of the Osher Life Long Learning Institute (OLLI), a program of the SF State College of Extended Learning. The event, titled "Older Americans: To Work or Not to Work," tackled the issues baby boomers face as guaranteed pensions decline and federal legislators talk of abolishing Social Security.

"The third act for boomers will be a defining one," said keynote speaker Mary Furlong, an entrepreneurial consultant and founder of SeniorNet and ThirdAge Media, online communities that focus on services for older adults. Furlong predicted that the needs of baby boomers in coming years will spawn new products and business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Labor Lawyer Bill Sokol discussed the current environment of shrinking retirement packages and Social Security, noting that many boomers will want or need to continue working through the years once reserved for leisure. He told the audience in the SF Jewish Center's Kanbar Hall that Social Security could be saved and urged everyone to "stay involved in politics and creating solutions to social problems."

Ann Reed, the California director of communications for AARP, predicted a crisis in the workplace when so many boomers reach retirement age at the same time. "Few companies are addressing the new reality that America will soon have a shortage of workers," she said.

Corporate consultant Linda Marks drew a parallel between boomers and the women in World War II who took the jobs of men who left work to serve in the armed forces. She stressed that unlike the WW II women, boomers will be able to remain at their jobs as long as they wish.

Speaking for the public sector, Jenny Erwin, regional administrator for the United States Department of Labor, pointed out that 50 percent of 1.6 million federal workers will be eligible to retire by 2008. "Older workers will have the opportunity to sell ourselves as innovators, a different kind of innovator than the younger workers. Longevity, after all, means long term experience."

Other speakers included Nick de Lorenzo, the acting director of the California office of the National Council on Aging; Career Consultant Linda Artel; Founder of Family Care, Cathy Leibow; Gloria Parra, program manager for Retiree Work Opportunities at the Retirement Center at University of California, Berkeley and filmmaker Candacy Taylor who presented her documentary on veteran waitresses who enjoyed their work and did not wish to retire.

The symposium concluded with breakout groups on starting a business, keeping a job, giving back and advocating for change.

OLLI director Susan Hoffman, who led the discussion on advocating for change, said that the breakout discussion demonstrated the value of the symposium. "A group of total strangers sat down and quickly identified healthcare and the structure of work as key issues," she said. "But everyone in the group insisted that these issues would have to be evaluated in terms of how they would affect not only boomers but all generations."

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified July 5, 2006 by University Communications