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Day: December 10, 2014

“Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think about Work, Community, and the Good Life” by Chris Farrell


Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think about Work, Community, and the Good Life” by Chris Farrell

c.2014, Bloomsbury
$26.00 / $32.00 Canada
256 pages



For much of your employed life, you dreamed about not having to work.

Retirement would be great. It would stretch out for years, a horizon with no alarm clock and no deadlines. What will you do with it?

Chances are, says author Chris Farrell, believe it or not, you’ll go to work. And in his new book “Unretirement,” he says you’ll do it because you want to, not because you have to.

It’s a statistic that has some politicians very worried: within the next fifteen years, say demographers, the sixty-five-plus population of America will be nearly equivalent to the current population of New York, California, and Texas combined. That’s a lot of retirees, and a fortune paid out in benefits.

For quite some time, though, economists and pessimists have expressed doubts that Social Security will even be around then. Others bemoan the amount of retirement savings that many Baby Boomers (the age group retired or soon retiring) don’t have. According to Farrell, however, these fears ignore the fact that most Boomers are re-thinking the way retirement will work for them.

He says that Boomers’ “last third of life is being reimagined and reinvented into ‘unretirement.’” They are, for instance, looking at Social Security as a supplement, rather than a sole income – and even then, they’re putting off collecting it. That’s the way it should be, says Farrell: Social Security is sound – it only needs “some tweaks to shore up its finances for the long haul” – but because of longer lifespans and better health, retirees should be encouraged to file later, unless they absolutely can’t wait.

And those late filers?  They’re seeing work in a whole different way: the rate of senior entrepreneurship is up, and so is gradual retirement. They’re staying on the job longer, are finding second (or even third) careers, or are volunteering. And despite that age discrimination can be a real issue, many workplaces have finally recognized the experience and reliability of older workers who are, in many cases, perfectly happy with part-time jobs. In short, Boomers have been “behind many changes in the workplace over the past four decades,” and they’re definitely not done.

Your IRA is fat and you like it that way. But how, when the time comes, will you use it?  Read “Unretirement,” and you might have a different answer to that question.

With intriguing statistics and a thoughtful tone, author Chris Farrell pooh-poohs pundits who decry the viability of Social Security and avow the belief that retirement-resistant seniors take jobs from younger workers by showing that doom-and-gloom prophesies and myths aren’t warranted or true. Along the way, he examines healthcare and the ACA, aging, home ownership, mentorship with (and from) younger workers, the history of retirement itself, and how other countries perceive their “gray revolution.”

While I’d say that this book is absolutely for Boomers, it’s also, surprisingly, something that Gen X’ers should check out, too. If you’ve already retired, are about to, or have worked all your life so you don’t have to work someday, “Unretirement” is unmissable.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin.

Wolverines make the grade in DOE report cards


Of the Keizertimes

Last November, report cards issued by the Oregon Department of Education hit administrators and teachers at Whiteaker Middle School like an anvil falling out of a clear, blue sky.

“I’ll never forget the professional development meeting we had when we showed the scores (from the 2012-13) report cards. I had never seen morale so low. We couldn’t understand how our view of what we do and what those scores were got so far apart,” said Tami Badinger, Wolverine assistant principal. “I watched everyone walk out with their heads down and I felt like there was nothing I could do.”

The results weren’t good. Whiteaker had slipped in its school rating to below average and settled somewhere among the lowest ranks within the Salem-Keizer School District. Low growth in the school’s English language learning and disability population were one factor that caused the school’s ratings to sink.

“We’ve always been proud of what we do, yet we were placed in the lowest in the district. We had to make a change. If we were going to be rated on just the district assessment, we had to shift our focus,” said Chad Christensen, an instructional coach at the school.

By the following month, administrators had regrouped and put forth a new plan for improving the school’s standing. Christensen did some digging into the math behind the school report card ratings and came up with a new approach.

Instead of pushing the students lagging far behind to make all-or-nothing leaps in achievement within a nine-month period, Christensen calculated individual focus-on-growth (FOG) scores for each student that would show above average growth.

“Where they might have had to jump 20 points to meet the state standards, they could grow seven points and still demonstrate above-average gains,” Christensen said.

“For the students who never met the OAKS goals before, they realized that they could show growth from where they started. It changed their thinking about the test,” said Lauren Stephenson, a language arts teacher.

Teachers would then work with each student to move the needle toward the FOG numbers they hoped to achieve. The faculty also began looking at new ways to approach testing that included new strategies on how to pull apart the reading passages and answer the associated questions.

“We kept our focus very narrow and we had close to 100 percent buy-in from teachers in every class in the school,” Badinger said.

Administrators also changed up the school’s incentive system. In the past, students who met the test standards were given visible rewards for their achievement, but students who didn’t make the grade ended up wearing a version of the scarlet letter, which did nothing for morale.

With the new FOG goals in mind, students were given bracelets for making above average growth even when they didn’t quite make the cut when it came to the overall score. Different colors signified different levels of achievement.

“They had visible reminders of the growth they’d made everywhere they went,” said Stephenson.

This year, when report cards were released, Whiteaker had raised its ranking to “about average,” but that label does little to evoke the enormity of its successes.

The Wolverines had more sixth and eighth grade students pass the OAKS reading test than any other middle school in the Salem-Keizer School District. They tied for second in the district among seventh graders. Overall, 83 percent of the student body met or exceeded its OAKS reading test (up 9 percent over the previous year). Whiteaker’s ELL students improved by 14 percent and its students with disabilities improved 12 percent. More than two-thirds of the ELL students advanced at least one year under the new FOG score-driven assessment.

In math, 75 percent of students met or exceeded the standards with the seventh grade students making a 12 percent leap and the eighth grade students improving their number by 4 percent.

While the new ratings came with a sigh of relief, the journey is far from over. This year, the school will institute a new standard testing system, dubbed Smarter Balance, and teachers and administrators are already in the throes of the change. They are encouraging parents to have their students read as much as possible to build up stamina for the reading and writing-heavy test.

“There’s a heavier emphasis on proving their work in math and reading, and they will only be allowed to use calculators on specific sections of the test,” said math teacher Toni Rommel.

Principal Julia Dewitt said teachers have added after-school hours to their schedules and are making themselves available for additional support.

“Beginning next week, we’ve even arranged for buses later in the afternoon for those students who need the transportation,” Dewitt said.

Fender-bender turns fatal


Of the Keizertimes

It was a minor enough accident that the Keizer Police Department wasn’t even called.

Five days later, however, one of the involved drivers passed away, with the accident being considered a contributing factor.

Sgt. Trevor Wenning with the KPD said a minor fender bender took place at Chemawa Road NE and 13th Avenue NE around 5 p.m. on Nov. 3, with the blue 2001 Chevrolet S-10 pick-up of 50-year-old Salem resident Thomas Hawks suffering minor rear bumper damage after being hit by a 2006 Jeep Commander.

Wenning said the two drivers exchanged insurance information and that seemed to be the end of it.

“She rear-ended him,” Wenning said of the other driver. “They clipped bumpers. There were no injuries and both drove away.”

The incident didn’t show up in Keizer’s police logs until three weeks later. When weekly calls were reviewed by the Keizertimes on Nov. 24, the incident stood out, both because of how much time had passed and because it was coded as a fatal accident.

Wenning said there’s a somewhat unusual reason for that.

“When Mr. Hawks woke up Nov. 5, he had severe headaches and was vomiting,” Wenning said. “He went to Salem Hospital. He went into a coma that day and passed away on Nov. 8.”

Wenning said KPD never responded to the accident because there was no call. Only after Hawks’ passing did police learn of the incident.

“A relative of the deceased talked to the Salem Police Department, after the death,” Wenning said. “Salem realized it was a Keizer case and the medical examiner needed a police report. I assigned an officer to it, who went out to investigate what he could.”

Wenning said the investigation revealed Hawks had pre-existing medical conditions but referred specific questions to the Marion County Medical Examiners Office. An official at the Medical Examiners Office had no comment, citing privacy laws.

“They’re leaving it as a fatal accident,” Wenning said. “They feel the crash was a contributing factor to his death.”

Wenning, who has been with the KPD since 1998, couldn’t recall such a bizarre case in his time with the agency. The only similar one he could think of was when an older man tried crossing River Road at Churchdale Street and was hit, then died after 29 days in the hospital. A key difference in this case is Hawks wasn’t taken to the hospital after the initial incident.

“For Keizer, this is an unusual occurrence,” Wenning said. “This one is unique. He went to the doctor and unfortunately didn’t come out.”