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Portland Baby Boomers Retire: Then What?

boomer

A Walk In Waterfront Park?

One thing is certain with all the baby boomer retirement ideas: No matter what they do, it’ll be wrong.

The backlash on what’s taken for granted today, like equal rights, environmental awareness, and women’s right to choose, started from the boomer beginning.

Who hasn’t heard racial slurs and been shocked that grandma didn’t know times had changed, or read about a polluted river with three-eyed fish where locals pay no attention, or seen old men explain how young women should treat their bodies?

Will the idea of retirement will bring some of the same attitudes?

Boomerpdx has a finger on the pulse.

Talk about retirement to an old logger and they’ll remind you you’ve never worked a day in your life.

Have you spent decades getting up at four in the morning to ride the crummy to the show? Did you spend the day out in the weather falling trees, setting chokers, or loading log trucks?

What? You worked in an office? Sitting at a desk? Now you’re retiring? To do what, go home and sit in front of your TV?

Commercial fishermen might have the same opinion. They’ve been on the ocean all their lives while you’ve been in front of a computer screen. And you want to retire from the grind?

What grind?

Older folks who’ve worked in natural resource harvesting, from logging to fishing to mining, have earned all the respect they get. The same goes for mill workers, factory workers, and farmers.

Their idea of retirement isn’t the same for boomers. Once you’ve worn out your body, you want to rest. Once you start resting, you rest some more. Then you get the final resting spot.

The gold watch for the company man goes into their will.

Baby boomer retirement took a hit with the 2008 economic drop. Who’s retiring? The plans changed.

Even those who stayed on their retirement plan, who understand the idea of a longevity bonus, eventually run into Now What?

Luckily for Portland baby boomers, the retirement menu is full of more pages and an Elmer’s menu, and you get breakfast all day.

You were a white collar wage slave who moved the paper pile every day? Now you’d like to do something hands-on, like finish something you can wrap your mind around?

Take a look at Repair PDX. If you’re one who’s a fixer instead of replacer, this is the place for volunteers to show the way.

An Atlantic Monthly article explains the emotional charge when you save something that’s been a fixture in your life from the landfill. What you bought twenty years ago breaks, so you fix it. Instead of the dump, or relocating to some hipster pad as their pride and joy, your gear gets a second life.

The pictures in the Atlantic piece show more than a few boomers.

If aging in place is your dream, but it’s turned a little sour, try some reinvention. You don’t have to roll back the calendar to achieve today’s cool, and Portland has it’s share of hipsters to welcome you to the club.

There might be a little backlash, but you’re used to it by now.

To score fashion points, find images of college dorks from the fifties with black frame glasses for guys, cat-eyes for women, and short sleeve madras print shirts. Find a pair of tight jeans and roll the bottoms above your black leather shoes. Ditch your warm-ups and Nikes and you’re in.

Once you get straightened out with how you’ll spend your retirement years in Portland, get ready to celebrate. You’ve got your Leatherman Tool for repair day, your new ‘work’ outfit, and all that’s missing is a thoroughly modern home to call your own.

Will you make an old home new, or a new home old? Outside of those two choices, what’s left? The Portland passive house movement. A Portland Monthly Magazine’s article shows another view into a better future.

Don’t count on retiring Oregon baby boomers to lay around waiting for something to do. They’ll take Dylan Thomas’s advice instead:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

What’s your plan? Turn on the light for starters.

About David Gillaspie
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