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I am married to the love of my life and am finally able to shower him with all of the attention he deserves. I am now retired and living the life here in Europe. I am an American, he is an Australian, and this is our second overseas address. The first was Shanghai, China and now Munich, Germany. Come along and live the life with us as we continue our adventure of discovering all Europe has to offer.

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Friday, July 10, 2009


I knew the day would come, I just didn't know it would

Elderly woman's hands - Bangkok, city of angelsImage by Sailing "Footprints: Real to Reel" (Ronn ashore) via Flickr

come to Germany first. The Baby Boomers have done it again, in Germany at least. It was announced today that senior citizens in West Germany received a 2.4 percent increase in their pension and East Germanys received a 3.4 percent increase! WOW! This is a larger increase than they have received in a decade. And guess what? There were no marches, protests, or letter campaigns to make it happen.

{{deOlaf Scholz (während einer Diskussion im ...Image via Wikipedia

It happened after Labor Minister Olaf Scholz held a press conference in which he promised not to cut pensions, "not next year and not in the years after that," he said. The German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck was none too happy. "I have great doubts whether this is the right signal to send to the next generations." It is true. The generation that is really affected by the economic crisis are the 25-35 year olds who want to have a family and find that jobs are scarce.

I think this is proof of the influential and powerful generation born between the 1950's and 1960's. It has always been about "us." Most of the boomers are expected to re

Behind the ear aidImage via Wikipedia

tire around 2015, so it can only get better. Better geriatic treatment, better hearing aids, better senior social centers, you name it. This group makes up one third of all voters, in Germany. It is safe to say that they will continue to have clout among legislators.

It's not all good though. The bad--in Germany economists predict that the healthcare system will rise dramatically within the next 40 years, despite expected advances in medicine. It could rise above 50 percent.

The good -- human beings, say some reasearchers, "are intellectually and physically capable to working much longer than society currently expects them to." So, if they work longer, they contribute longer into the system. This helps the social welfare system.

At the BMW's Dingolfing assembly plant it is easy to see what's in store for German business.

Bayerische Motoren Werke AGImage via Wikipedia

In 2017 the average age of the assembly workers will be 47 years old. So, they have changed the way that they "do" business. For example, workers on the line are encouraged to take some time out to exercise when they want. They go on breaks together, take time out in a room designed for rest, and have special padded floors at their workstations to help their aging joints and spines. This is a pilot program, aiming to build workers strength and stamina.

In 2029, in Germany, the new retirement ages will be 67, mirroring the U.S. This will help reduce social benefits because the older unemployed with have to wait two more years to receive benefits.

Hopefully when the economy starts to recover, businesses will begin to hire the young people--however, in just a decade only one-sixth of all Germans will be under 20 so it remains to be seen if this will cover the workforce. They could, possibly, run out of workers.

An interesting side note. At the BMW assembly line, the line runs at a faster pace than the other lines due to older and more experienced workers; the error rate is close to zero. This leads the German analysts to predict that by 2015, "The next generation will also have to work a lot longer--until they're 69 or 70."

This leads to the three L's. "Magic Formula For Fruitful Old Age." LEARNING, LOVING, AND LAUGHING. (Also, good nutrition). Researchers have found that people who live by the three L's delay the natural deterioration of the brain by several years. People who have stress, smoke, are affected by noise and monotony actually decrease their intelligence. (No more Camels for me, thank you. One more reason to not smoke--advanced stupidity, LOL).

Stress, it appears reduces the amount of dopamine in the body. Lower dopamine levels "quiets down the brain," or in other words, causes our thought processes to begin to slow down. Routine, however, offsets this deficit for a long time. Contrary to what people think, slower, thoughtful people make fewer mistakes. The elderly tend to have larger vocabularies, better interpersonal skills, get along better with customers and co-workers. (This is sounding better and better!) Their life experiences make them more able to asses life situations.

This does back up everything I know about the aging today. Most retirees I know, including myself, want to stay active and as a result join clubs, begin exercise progams, belong to golf/tennis clubs, volunteer in social programs, or start their own organizations. Some, and I would venture to say that this group is growing, want to be back to work again. (Perish the thought!) In Germany, a quarter of all people 60 to 80 want a paid job. Fourteen percent of those have one and they say the ratio is increasing.

Most of the time, they become consultants, providing services to former employers. A really neat group of seniors is called the "Senior Expert Service." It sends out about 7,000 business professionals a year to train Ugandan healthcare workers or set up workshops in Cambodia.

I haven't yet found a volunteer program or a club to join, but having learned these statistics, I need to step up my efforts. I have no desire to return to work, but at my tender age (ahem), I still have a lot to offer. If I don't have a lot to offer, I still want to work my brain cells out. But the three L's are still a seniors' best bet. Who can argue with laughter, love, and learning?

An old farmer woman.Image via Wikipedia

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