Baby Boomers seek emotionally rich retirement

Call me asleep at the wheel or on a river called denial, but I am only beginning to take notice of how my generation’s retirement will look different than our predecessors’.

On each day until 2030, at least 10,000 Baby Boomers (those born from 1946 to 1965) will reach the age of 65. About 75 percent make the decision to claim Social Security benefits as soon as they are eligible, and most retirement advice or statistics online obsess about money that we will or won’t have to make the golden years shine.

All that financial talk is important, of course, but so is how to retire in an emotionally rich way. Your picture of a perfect retirement may vary wildly from mine, but I think we can agree that wealth is about contentment as much as dollars during this stage of the game.

One big part of me still wants to see and experience as much of the world as possible, while it is possible. Another part increasingly makes get-togethers with longtime friends a priority, but what we do and where we go doesn’t matter as much as sharing the time together.

See what happens when you know there are more years behind you than ahead? For me, the awakening began when the first round of close friends decided to spend all or a part of winter in a warmer climate.

Snowbirding is what brought me this month to Englewood, Fla., 80 miles south of Tampa and population 15,000, where a college friend and her husband recently decided to buy a winter home.

When we were younger, a good day was jammed with as many diversions and sunbathing time as 24 hours could provide. Now a vacation’s defining moments seem more deliberate and discerning.

The rhythm of this visit was more about savoring one significant meal and activity per day – like a lengthy hike to deserted beachfront, or a pontoon ride to get acquainted with bayside dolphins and waterfront estates.

We always left time for a midday snooze, dip in the pool, dog-eared novel or leisurely round of day drinking.

The 2010 U.S. Census says about 47 percent of Englewood’s residents are age 65 or older (the national average is 13 percent). The friendly community feels vibrant by day and ready to sleep around 10 p.m. When I say this face of retirement sure doesn’t duplicate our parents’ generation, this is what I mean:

Baby boomers are working to stay mentally sharp. Grandma’s bingo night is this generation’s trivia night (with or without cocktails).

Expect easy access to musicians, blues to soft rock to acoustic combos, every night of the week. The cover charge, if there is one, is minimal.

Exercise matters, judging from the number of wrinkly but fit bodies, women in leggings, bicyclists and walkers on rec trails. Morning yoga on the beach happens in more than one location. Some beachcombers sift sand with wire mesh baskets, also known as a “Florida snow shovel,” looking for shark teeth and unusual shells.

If the Thursday farmers’ market was in Wisconsin, it probably would rank among the 10 biggest, selling food to artwork, much from retiree vendors. It is a mini melting pot: Some sell favorite dishes from native homelands, which makes for an eclectic mix of barbecue, seafood, tacos, German fare and more. Especially popular: one massive and steaming pan of Spanish paella, from which the chef filled takeout containers nonstop.

Englewood retirees love their pets, especially “purse dogs,” as my transplanted friend calls them. That’s a reference to pooches tiny enough to haul around town in a shoulder bag or basket.

One of the community’s livelier places to dine, drink and linger is Englewood Moose Lodge, open to members and their guests; annual dues (waived for military vets and first responders) are a whopping $30 to $55. The casual T-shirt vibe turns the clock back to the 1970s, and flaming outdoor torches make the open-air bar easy to spot after dusk.

Devotees graduate to the 65-acre Moosehaven retirement community, four hours north of Englewood, providing independent living to skilled care. Moose members for at least 15 years are eligible to apply.

Until then, the Englewood contingent gets a $5 lodge lunch voucher for donating blood, ponys up for 50/50 raffles that benefit good causes and flashes back to the music of their youth, knowing well that renditions of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” are slowly taking on a new meaning.

For more about Englewood: englewoodchamber.com, 941-474-5511.

How will your own retirement or impending retirement vacations differ from your parents’ generation? If you have found an excellent vacation destination or discount that is of particularly good value to older adults, let me know about it.

The deadline for your notes of 150 words or less is May 1, and I’ll figure out a way to reward at least two of you for your efforts. Type “retirement vacations” in the subject line of your email, send it to info@roadstraveled.com and include your name and city of residence.

AARP predicts that 99 percent of Baby Boomers will take at least one vacation this year, but the average is at least five trips.

About 43 percent hope to travel both domestically and internationally.

The most popular international destinations will be Mexico, the Caribbean and Great Britain. Top domestic destinations are Florida and California.