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by Brick Walters, 9/15/00

Dc: This is DCR, it's not the news. The voting power of senior citizens now dominates the political scene. This power is likely to last for some time to come, as over the next ten years, many millions more will retire. But what will retirement look like for the seniors of the baby boom? Will it be peaceful or full of anxiety, or both?
Brick Walters reports.

(sfx: bank lobby)

Brick: Security guard Chloe Ross sees a lot from her post at First Guarantee Fidelity Solid Trust Bedrock Bank. She sees a lot of new retirees.

Chloe: I've had to teach some of 'em. They come in for their first day off the job with their heads all full of these messages that retirement is a time to go, go, go! I try to calm 'em down. I tell 'em, "This is where you visit with each other in the lobby. This is how you chat with the tellers, here's where you go to drink the free coffee." They just don't know what to do.

(sfx: bank lobby out)

Brick: "They don't know what to do." It's a theme I heard over and over and over when asking about new retirees. Congressman Loomis Beechly thinks the Federal government needs to take action before it's too late.

Beechly: (phone) They say "since I retired, I'm busier than ever!" That tells me their job, whatever it was, did not prepare them for the End of Work.
They don't know how to do nothing.

Brick: (int) But then there are so many retirees who HAVE to keep working.

Beechly: That's the other part. A lot of 'em think they're ready to kick back and suddenly they have grandchildren to care for. Or they have extravagant tastes to satisfy, like a dry place to live and food that's edible.

Brick: The result retirees who are as active as people in the workforce. This has led Congressman Beechly to propose standards to insure that no one enters their twilight years without relaxation training. Lucy Walker is the new chair of the Department Of Older Folks Issues.

Lucy: We want people let go of their pattern of doing, doing, doing. So we've laid out specific goals and objectives in what we call our "Profile of Leisure."

Brick: The Profile of Leisure has 24 separate areas where seniors must demonstrate competence before they're allowed to retire. Areas like Lounging, Napping, Visiting, Sidewalk Superintending, Aimless Roaming Around, and Staring Into Space.

Beechly: These are areas where people are really gonna have to show us they know their stuff before we're gonna let them out of the workforce.

Brick: (int) But Congressman, is this really necessary?

Beechly: Go overseas. The park benches are full. The café's are crowded. Here in this country the pigeons rule the park benches and the old folks are bungee jumping or out greeting customers at Wal-Mart.

Brick: (int) Maybe the causes are social and economic!

Beechly: Oh, I don't think so. It's training! Standards! By making them pass the Profiles of Leisure, they will have to show BEFORE they get the gold watch that they know how to vegetate.

Brick: Lucy Walker of the DOOFUST agrees.

Lucy: When I see American retirees hang gliding from hot air balloons and hiking barefoot up Mount Pinatubo I want to say to them "Relax! Don't you know how?"

Brick: And what do they say when you ask them that?

Lucy: I... I can't catch up with them. They're too busy scuba diving and ballroom dancing. Or the opposite. Scrounging around for money to pay for their prescriptions.

Beechly: The Profiles of Leisure that we're proposing come with "Idleness Packages" that the seniors complete to demonstrate all that they've learned.

(sfx: shuffle papers)

Here's one. The item is called "Cocooning."
The Package includes tasks such as... "climb into a reclining chair and cover yourself with a blanket. Doze." And this one --
"Watch TV, using a remote to flip through the channels. Note how nothing is good anymore, certainly not as good as it used to be. Call your children. Complain."

Brick: That doesn't sound too difficult.

Beechly: You'd be surprised. A shocking number of people aged 65 and older are simply unable to perform these tasks, believe it or not. That's why we have to have standards. Otherwise you can't tell the retirees from the people who are still working like dogs.

Brick: It doesn't sound like an easy sell.

Beechly: I don't care. If they want their prescription drug benefits, they're gonna have to deliver.

Brick: But will it work? I asked two retirees, Doug and Mary Carping about their plans for the day.

(sfx: city street, birds)

Doug: Plans? Play golf, mabye?

Mary: Work in the garden, I suppose.

Brick: What about a catnap?

Doug and Mary: No, no, probably not. Might do some rock climbing. I have lots of energy. (etc)

Brick: Any plans to play checkers, Doug?

Doug: No!

Brick: Go to the casino, Mary?

Mary: (scoffs) What for?

Brick: Can you at least do this? It comes straight out of one of the Idleness Packages with the Retirement Standards.. it's called "Medical History Sharing." ... "get in a crowded elevator. Identify (verbally) one of your most personal medical difficulties. Discuss it, loudly."

Mary: Oh, I could never do it!

Doug: They expect that?

Mary: When we reached retirement age there was still "social promotion." You put in your time, you move on. No real requirements.

Doug: To tell the truth, if we had to meet those standards ... I'd still be down at the plant.

Mary:. And I'd still be teaching.

(sfx: city street, birds, out)

Brick: And so... the battle continues over retirement standards, the Profile of Leisure and the Idleness Packages. Will institution of stronger standards help create a population of retirees who are the best in the world at doing nothing? Or will it simply make million of testy old people even more cranky? Out in the field, I'm Brick Walters.


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