Why child boomers want digital abilities to defend themselves in opposition to the retirement disaster
Digital competence only opens up opportunities
A third of adults over 65 have never used the internet and half have not even had internet access at home. In San Francisco, the “epicenter of technology,” 40% of older adults lack basic knowledge of digital literacy. Today millions of people are disconnected from culture, but also from opportunities. Before we can worry about the intricacies of media literacy, we first need to get more online and help them navigate the growing number of websites and apps.
Inequality will only increase if over 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. By 2050, 22% of Americans will be 65 years or older. Now the technology is exponential. This corresponds to a large fraction of our world population who are unable to use emerging technologies efficiently … in a society whose adoption and application of technology is only accelerating.
An easy – but obscure – argument to deny this concern is that seniors do not need to be part of our techno future. You will soon be wealthy, retired, and relaxed. But that is the furthest from the truth.
Baby boomers are currently experiencing a different boom: As more people are getting older than ever before, their life expectancy also increases dramatically. With medical advances, the number of American men expected to live well into the 1990s has doubled since 1965. In other words, more seniors live longer.
With the middle baby boomer having less than $ 20,000 in personal savings – thanks to COVID-19 – despite the 30-year pension recommendation of $ 1 million and the social security bankruptcy, seniors cannot feed themselves and comfortably in the Retire.
Add mass illiteracy and our problem links. On average, 37% of boomers believe they will need long-term care when they retire, when in reality it is closer to 70%. Just because you live longer doesn’t mean you live healthier. There is an unfortunate unconfirmed health care cost … one that is only increasing. It’s hard to focus on saving when your focus is on surviving. Meanwhile, only 15% of boomers have tried to estimate their retirement savings costs, and 43% of women 45 and older have no confidence in their ability to get savings for retirement. Culturally, the financial planning role is taken over by the man in the relationship, and as the number of unmarried singles and divorces is only increasing, this is also a cause for concern.
The growing numbers of people who are trying to retire, live longer and lack the financial and educational resources to do so is monumental. This is not a problem – it is a crisis.
The workable solution is work. According to Gallup, 41% of Americans expect to work beyond the age of 65, compared with 13.5% of Americans who expected to do so in 1995. Note that these statistics were collected before COVID-19 unemployment hit savings. Baby boomers desperate for income to survive are the fastest growing segment of the US workforce today. And in order for them to keep up, digital skills are required in the workplace.
However, don’t expect employers to be kind enough to teach these skills. More than half of those over 50 have been laid off in so-called “involuntary or forced retirement”, while only a few organizations actively help older employees transition from full-time to part-time. And for those fortunate enough to be employed, 3 out of 5 older workers experience agism at work. For these reasons, the number of age-related discrimination cases filed with the EEOO (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) by those over 65 doubled between 1990 and 2017.
We have seniors desperate for work but largely unwelcome by both employers and younger competitors from Millennial and Gen Z applicants. A 2018 Bloomberg headline sums it up, “Seniors Are Replacing Teenagers as Fast Food Workers.” Consider again what happened to these jobs due to COVID-19 and what will happen to those jobs due to automation – Forrester predicts the destruction of 24.7 million American jobs in America due to automation by 2027 – and we are beginning to realize just how dire this situation really is.
So work is not the complete solution. It’s gig based work.
2027 will also be the year in which the US workforce will overturn the “gig majority”. In other words, there will be more contractors, freelancers and employees than full-time employees. Gig work allows freedom, and baby boomers have to ride that wave to literally survive.
Many begin. 34 percent of the gig economy is already made up of retirees 65 and over, and women over 60 are the fastest growing host segment at Airbnb. While it can be argued that this type of income does not require digital literacy in the workplace, access and navigation to this platform are required.
What we see together is an unbearable economic and social burden – the cracks are splintering and the time bomb is ticking. Ruin awaits in the darkest sense: our population is aging, living longer, cannot afford health care, does not save and has to work to survive in an environment in which 1. they do not have the digital skills and 2. you will help not even greeted. Until government intervention is required, the burden lies with the individual.
The simplest bottom-up solution is teaching digital literacy. To keep baby boomers part of our tech-obsessed workforce and weather the impending retirement crisis by joining the gig economy, adequate qualifications are required to operate today’s tools and tomorrow’s platforms. Tutoring, customer service, transcription, translation, editing, research, accounting and other work based on virtual assistance open the doors. But even here, digital skill is required to discover and surpass these roles.
With the disaster ahead, a sweet opportunity comes. There are companies, nonprofits, and educational resources waiting to be built to qualify, connect, and empower Baby Boomers.
Support is also available on an individual basis. So who can you help for now?