Baby Boomers & “The Open Road”: Retirement Planning

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Reflecting on how often they switched jobs and changed careers, Baby Boomers once asked, ‘What am I going to do when I grow up?” Now, as the first of 77 million Boomers approach retirement age, they’re asking, “What do we do next?”

This is the fundamental question that Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Nina Gilden Seavey tackles in her new documentary, The Open Road: America Looks at Aging, which premiered in July on public television.

The Open Road fills the need for a film that deals with aging in a normative way, looking at opportunities found in aging as well as the obstacles inherent in longevity. It examines how everyday people without major health issues successfully anticipate and navigate these obstacles. Most everyone will eventually face health issues related to aging, Seavey acknowledges, but longevity will give the Boomer generation many vital years to answer the “what next” question.

Seavey’s research identified six salient issues that Boomers will have to face. She traveled the country seeking individuals whose stories represent how people deal with these larger concerns. For instance, the stories depict the fear individuals often face as they enter retirement, as well as the financial difficulties that can result from being unprepared.

“I interviewed literally hundreds of people before selecting the individuals in the film,” Seavey says. ‘Their stories are universal, illustrating the variety of options we have, but also highlighting the obstacles – some cultural, some economic, some policy-related – that will keep us from realizing our aging potential.”

Seavey, who produced, directed, and wrote the film and who heads The Documentary Center at The George Washington University, also includes commentary by four of America’s foremost experts on aging. They address the imperatives of healthy aging, emphasizing the importance of dealing with all of the obstacles attendant to aging while taking advantage of the opportunities.

Seavey believes The Open Road: America Looks at Aging will prove to be a vibrant example of the public television tradition of programs that foster dialogue on critical issues that confront society and individuals.

“It’s a film that will cause people to think and talk about what lies ahead – it’s truly an open road,” the filmmaker says. “I hope that it will spark conversations about what can be done to take advantage of the tremendous wealth of Baby Boomer experience and energy, and my greatest wish is that it will encourage Boomers to think about how they can creatively shape the “third phase” of their lives in a way that satisfies critical individual and social needs.”

The Open Road: America Looks at Aging is supported by The Atlantic Philanthropies and by The National Council on the Aging. It is a production of the Documentary Center at The George Washington University in association with Oregon Public Broadcasting. It will be distributed to public television stations in July via American Public Television. For more information about APT’s programs and services visit APTonline.org Additional materials on The Open Road: America Looks at Aging can be found at www.theopenroadfilm.com.

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