What the Retirement Living cable channel can tell us about how the boomers are changing retirement.

All you need to know about retirement.
Jan. 7 2011 4:02 PM

It's Not The Golden Girls

What the Retirement Living cable channel can tell us about how the boomers are changing retirement.

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What's Next is RLTV's makeover show. An RV pulls up in front of a sad-sack senior's home and a team of advisors make suggestions for life improvement. In the episode I saw, John, a single sixtysomething who had left Florida to housesit at his daughter's home in Maryland, had fallen into an isolated rut. The team got him a haircut, new clothes, a fitness plan, membership at an online dating service, and brought him to the local senior center to make friends. In a Borat-worthy episode of miscommunication, John found himself trying to make conversation with a lunchtime group of silent eightysomethings hunched over cooked carrots on cardboard trays. Sherry, the upbeat host of the show observed that making friends is always worthwhile, and who knows, one of those 80-year-old ladies might have a daughter!

On Sunset Daze, before the former nun got in the airplane, she noticed a memorial rock with the names of several people on it—jumpers who found the landing rather harder than expected. There is also programming on RLTV that acknowledges that in the end some kind of final landing awaits us all. A youthful-looking Joan Lunden, the 60-year-old former host of Good Morning America, has a new series called, Taking Care. It is addressed to the people who watch over mentally or physically incapacitated loved ones. "If it's not at your door, it's at your doorstep," she says of the tidal wave of caretaking that will be required for failing old people. Lunden herself is a caregiver, responsible for a mother in her 90s with dementia. (She's also the mother to two sets of elementary-school-aged twins, produced with the help of surrogates.) I admired RLTV for producing this helpful, honest show, and I found it painful to watch.

Watching RLTV was an immersion in the concerns and passions of the growing numbers of retired people. For the next two decades, as the New York Times notes , about 10,000 boomers a day will reach 65. Many will retire, some never will, some who had planned to will find they can no longer afford it. But there's no question that boomers will reshape American retirement. This is the first column in a series looking at retirement today, and I'd like your help with ideas—what do you want to know about finances or relationships or work or leisure. Please send suggestions to emilyyoffe@hotmail.com.

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