Aging Their Way: Interviews With Older South Dakotans Back »

Written by Bethany Stoutamire (Former SDSU Extension Aging in Place Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA Member) under the direction and review of Leacey E. Brown.


For much of human history, the concept of retirement did not exist. Individuals had to work as long as they possibly could in some role to ensure their survival in societies composed of hunter-gatherers or primitive farming. The concept of retirement (a period of leisure), and the life course as we know it, emerged after the Industrial Revolution. One was supposed to get an education, graduate and get a job, get married, have and raise children, then retire. The idea of a rigid life course was reinforced by the government when in 1936, it introduced a standardized age for pensions. However, the life course has once again changed. It has been disrupted by longer life expectancies, changes in marriage and divorce rates, technology, and economic changes like recessions and globalization. With all these factors at play, it’s time to reimagine aging and retirement.

The generation that bore witness to the Civil Rights marches, large numbers of women entering the workforce, and other social changes are shaking up what we think we know about aging and retirement. Baby boomers are living longer and healthier lives than any other previous generation. They are no longer interested on a retirement based on leisure. Many boomers seek to engage in activities that match their values and tap into their strengths, whether it’s volunteering or becoming an entrepreneur. Some call this phase of life encore adulthood.

To highlight this new age of aging, we are starting a series to highlight older adults in South Dakota who are aging their own way.

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References & Additional Readings:

  • Will Baby Boomers Change the Meaning of Retirement?
  • Moen, Phyllis. 2016. “Encore Adulthood: Boomers on the Edge of Risk, Renewal, and Purpose.”
  • Nelson, John. 2010. “What Color Is Your Parachute? For Retirement.”
  • Smith, Hyrum, W. 2017. “Purposeful Retirement: How to bring Happiness and Meaning to Your Retirement”
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