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Workplace

Boomers not ready to be shown the door Add to ...

Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?

In 1966, when Paul McCartney sang this Beatles ditty, as soon as a worker got old, they were expected to collect their gold watch and leave the building. But today, as the first baby boomers hit retirement age, expectations are changing. Boomers, unlike their parents, will continue working late into their lives, says Michael Adams, president of Environics Research Group, a communications and consulting firm in Toronto.

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"Boomers think they are the authors of their destiny," says Mr. Adams. "They're in the vanguard, changing the process of what it is to be older."

Mr. Adams turns 64 this year and has no intention of retiring. At least half of his fellow boomers feel the same, he says. Some need to work because of debt, others like their work and want to stay stimulated. "It's not going to be like birth, marriage, kids, retirement, death," says Mr. Adams. "They want to mix it up a little bit."

Depending on their health, values and motivation, they will engage and re-engage with work, says Mr. Adams. They might take a few years off and travel go around the world and visit Machu Picchu, India or China, he says. Then they'll come back, sit down with their buddies and say, "I'd like to do something." They might form a consulting company, or start an NGO (non-government organization) to aid some worthy cause, he says, or go back to their workplace and say, "Have you got any projects I can help with?"

What boomers have to offer are their networks - who they know. Through a boomer, entrepreneurs with a project or invention might find an angel investor. Their knowledge, experience and connections can be a continuing resource for organizations.

"Business should see it as an opportunity," says Mr. Adams. "For example, Don Drummond of the TD Bank retired, but they wanted him to stay and mentor. Companies would be wise to ask how they can retain these people on terms that they're comfortable with and that the company is comfortable with. And if a company doesn't want these talented boomers, one of their competitors will."

Mr. Adams believes boomers will be most useful in financial services, learning opportunities and tourism. And boomers will best serve other boomers because nobody else better understands what they want.

Mr. Adams also admires the energy among boomer women, who often put their own career ambitions aside while their husbands were building their own careers.

"They want to lead. It's their time," says Mr. Adams. "Who's to stop them from starting up a new business?"

As for Sir Paul, who turns 69 this June, retiring isn't likely. He's still too busy rocking out.

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