195: Cal Halvorsen—Post-Coronavirus: What If You Can’t Retire Now?

Hear how to re-think retirement during the pandemic

During this coronavirus crisis, there is a vital need to recognize the humanity in the numbers. Remember, each statistic represents a real person. I invited Cal Halvorsen to join us again to talk about his perspectives on the next stage of life for older adults. (We first interviewed him in September, 2018 which you can listen to here.) In today’s podcast, we talk about the abrupt changes this pandemic has created for seniors. And after it finally flattens and fades, how can we ensure that they can live safely and think about retirement, again? Much to learn here.Enjoy.

Cal Halvorsen-1Our older adults: perhaps vulnerable but still very vital

Some of the news stories today emphasize, incorrectly, the toll of COVID-19 on older adults, particularly those with other health conditions. Yes, many older adults are getting very ill and dying. But so are a number of younger people, too. And the idea that we may have to sacrifice our elders for the future of our economy simply cannot be tolerated.

Then there is the rapid spread of the virus among those in nursing homes or assisted living residences where they have gone to be safe and secure. Instead, they are in close quarters where the virus spreads easily and quickly.

In our podcast, Cal and I discuss what might be the future of these residences. Would anyone want to go there after the horrible scenes we are witnessing today? If not, will seniors be able to age in place using telemedicine and remote sensors to help them do so? These are just a few of the important questions necessitating big changes coming out of this crisis.

And finally, Cal and I dig into how to make sure that our 72 million aging Baby Boomers are able to deal with anxiety and loneliness while they distance themselves from potential carriers of the virus. Being alone has never been something desirable for older adults, or for anyone. It feels, for many, like a prison. How can they stay engaged? 

All of these issues are taking their toll on the usual lives of Boomers, and in fact, all of us.

It’s time to re-think the entire idea of retirement

With the bottoming out of the stock market and the loss of jobs affecting the future savings and income of older adults, there are going to be some real challenges for those who were planning on leaving the workplace and living off their savings. But, what if they used this crisis as a time to re-think their ideas about retiring and explore ways to stay engaged and even start their own businesses? Sure, this may require the economy to open back up and stabilize. Yet as well as massively disruptiving older people’s lives, the pandemic may enable them to see opportunities they had ignored or never seen before. Think of the possibilities! We’ll just have to wait and see, but it could be very exciting.

Some background on Cal Halvorsen

Cal J. Halvorsen, MSW, PhD, is an assistant professor at the Boston College School of Social Work and an inaugural member of the Encore Public Voices Fellowship, a partnership between the OpEd Project and Encore.org to increase the diversity of voices at the intersection of aging, longevity and social justice. His work examines aging societies and the need and desire for people past midlife to work past traditional retirement age, with particular emphasis on self-employment, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship among older adults. Cal received his Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis and his Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, with honors, from the University of Iowa. He can be reached at cal.halvorsen@bc.edu.

A sample of Cal’s published articles:

  • The Washington Post: “You’ve stopped working. Now go out and make money.” (September 2019)
  • The New York Times: “When retirement savings run short, freelancing fills the gaps.” (September 2019)
  • BBC News: “Why US firms are desperate to retain ageing workers.”
  • (August 2019)
  • WGBH Greater Boston: Almost half Of Americans plan to retire after 65—or never” (July 2019)
  • PBS Next Avenue and Forbes: “How to fix racial disparities in entrepreneurship over 50” (July 2019)
  • PBS Next Avenue and Forbes: “How important is a presidential candidate’s age?” (July 2019)
  • Fast Company: “Why we need to be honest about the risks of entrepreneurship” (November 2018)

For more on adapting to change over 50, we offer these blogs and podcasts:

Additional resources