The big 6-5: The oldest baby boomers are turning 65 this year

Thursday, May 5, 2011
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Your Health

Dr. Anthony J. Keele, a certified anti-aging medical specialist in Cape Girardeau, says heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are some of the biggest health concerns for the baby boomer generation -- but individuals can drastically lower their risk by exercise, healthy eating and weight loss.

"There's a huge void of nutrition education in this country. Like anything else, it's a whole lot easier to prevent problems than it is to deal with it after it happens," says Keele. "No matter how old you are, it's never too late to get healthy."

Staying in good general health is the best way to prevent a multitude of other medical problems, and it's also key to saving money on health care, says Keele.

"The baby boomer generation is very aware of what they're spending on medical care. They're seeking out ways to do something in their own life to get out of the cost of care. It's becoming a pretty common sense thing," Keele says. "One major thing I hear on a daily basis is, 'I want to get off my pills. It's costing me a fortune to take all these pills. I want to do the right things in my life so I don't have these problems anymore.'"

Both men and women experience hormonal changes in middle age, and this is also when people start to notice the signs of aging, says Keele -- they don't sleep well, mental clarity and alertness decrease, the muscles grow weaker, they lose body height and the joints don't work as well. Metabolism slows down, and fatigue or other health problems mean people exercise less -- and continue to put on weight.

"The body can't handle the stress because you're carrying that extra weight. The body will break down faster," says Keele. Through his medical practice, Keele works with patients on weight loss, nutrition and hormonal modulation to help slow the aging process and lead to greater quality of life.

"Medicine has gotten really good at keeping people alive, but it's still not doing a very good job at keeping the quality of life up," says Keele. "What's the point of living to 90 years old if for the last 30 years, you hurt all the time, are miserable and you don't feel good? We have the ability to make those last 30 or 40 years of life of good quality."

What can you do now? Start exercising, even if it's just going for a swim or walking a mile a day, says Keele. Never think you're too old to exercise -- because there is no such thing.

Fifty-two percent of Missourians age 50 and up say health care issues are the top challenge facing mid-life and older adults. That includes the cost of health care, having health insurance, and staying healthy and mentally sharp.

Source: 2011 AARP Research & Strategic Analysis, "Voices of 50+ Missouri: Dreams & Challenges"

Your Money

Charlotte Matthews, a financial adviser with Edward Jones in Cape Girardeau, says baby boomers are viewing their retirement years differently than the generations before them.

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"This generation of individuals is redefining retirement and embracing a vision of active retirement," she says. "Many are deciding on a second career, going back to school for further education and engaging in energetic leisure activities."

At the same time, though, Matthews says baby boomers are concerned about how they will support themselves in retirement. According to "Busting Boomer Myths," a 2008 study by Focalyst Insight Report, 77 percent of baby boomers are worried about having enough income during retirement, and 44 percent aren't satisfied with their household's current financial situation. Nearly half say they will need expert help in retirement planning.

"Because of this 'forever young' feeling, it's easy to underestimate the expenses they may incur during retirement," says Matthews. "These expenses may include unforeseen medical bills, caring for dependent parents and/or children at the same time and overcoming debt obstacles."

When meeting with baby boomer and senior clients, Matthews says the first step is to discuss consolidating their assets, developing a retirement plan and preparing for any unexpected event that could change that plan.

"It's not enough to just have a strategy for their investments," says Matthews. "A solid retirement plan also considers real estate, medical expenses and debt."

From there, Matthews can create a report showing how much income will be needed to achieve their goals, then determine if they're on the right track or need to make adjustments.

Another area to consider is how to protect the family in case of an illness or medical issue.

"Long-term care insurance can be a benefit for protecting the assets they've worked so hard to build, and help cover large expenses should the need arise," says Matthews.

3 in 10 baby boomers think they have everything they need to protect against consumer fraud, receive Social Security when needed and find the best deals. They also worry about financial planning and management, identity theft, that they won't be able to maintain their lifestyle in retirement, and saving for the future.

Source: 2011 AARP Research & Strategic Analysis, "Voices of 50+ Missouri: Dreams & Challenges"

Your free time

"I think baby boomers are so much more active," says Ruth Dockins, public information" director for the Southeast Missouri Area Agency on Aging. Those she meets are healthier and living longer, and they want to travel and try new things. "They're a lot more conscious about their health. They eat better, they've been exercising and they're more knowledgeable about what is healthy," says Dockins.

But another thing that's changed is the retirement age. U.S. retirement age has traditionally been 65, but it's gradually increasing to 67. The oldest baby boomers, who are turning 65 this year, won't see full retirement benefits until age 66. For these reasons, Dockins meets with more seniors than baby boomers, probably because the baby boomers are still working and accruing money toward retirement.

In the 15 years Dockins has worked at the agency, the nature of the work has changed greatly, and she expects it will continue to do so as the baby boomers grow older.

"We're getting more and more and more calls about Medicare, prescription drugs and appealing Medicare decisions. We get a lot of calls from people that are the caregiver of somebody," she says. "It's because people are living longer." Fifteen years ago, she adds, "We would rarely get a call about Medicare, and if we did it was referred out. We used to be information and referral; now we're information and assistance. We're giving hands-on help."

Volunteers are needed to give this hands-on help, and Dockins admits that they getting harder to come by.

"Baby boomers are not as interested in volunteering as previous generations were -- probably because they're still working," she says.

One of Dockins' biggest concerns for the baby boomer generation is that they may isolate themselves. This generation is more familiar with technology, and while television, the Internet and cell phones have done wonders for communication, Dockins says face-to-face meetings are crucial.

"The number of people going to the senior centers to eat and do volunteer work are down, and there are more homebound," she says. "Those who are most in need are the hardest to reach."

Her best advice?

"Stay active. Go out every day. Get with other people. Just stay involved," says Dockins.


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"Most people in this demographic are still active -- so if they're in their 60s, they feel more like 40 in their head," says Carolyn Kempf, owner of Elite Travel in Cape Girardeau. "The big thing they like to do is travel with their grandkids." Cruises and Florida are always popular for family vacations, she says. Other baby boomer hot spots are Europe -- especially Italy -- and Hawaii, Mexico and Australia. Retirees also have the flexibility for longer stays and around-the-world cruises.

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