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How to Invent Retirement


reverse mortgage blogPeople who are getting close to retiring are often advised to “develop a hobby” prior to retirement, in order to stave off those presumably endless empty hours with something enjoyable.

Old news.

Today’s retirees are using their time and creativity to design a future that goes far beyond bingo, golf, bridge, or beginning ukulele.

Last month we looked at some of the ways the new seniors are reinventing aging around the globe, using technology as a lever to reach out, connect, share wisdom and expand what it means to grow older with passion and purpose. Now that they have the time to bring creative ideas to fruition, many seniors are literally inventing their future, paying it forward with an inspiration and dedication that has accrued with vintage. And their stories carry a message for reverse mortgage professionals.

Retired 3M engineer Bob Nepper, for instance, has always had a yen to improve the world. One of the areas of need he’s been focused on for awhile is the lack of clean water in the world’s poorest countries. So the octogenarian teamed up with a fellow humanitarian and retired 3M engineer to develop a portable, solar-powered water pasteurizer that’s been used successfully in Haiti.

Not your typical retirees — but they may be the wave of tomorrow. With the burgeoning Maker movement, co-work spaces and crowdfunding platforms, possibilities exist to encourage and support older inventors that weren’t available even a decade ago. And the seniors themselves are an evolving lot: more educated, active, mobile and connected than previous generations. Since innovation is the watchword of many Boomers, as they entire their sixties and beyond the invention trend is likely to spiral upward to keep pace.

“Older inventors can better focus on a project,” according to Warren Tuttle, president of the board of the United Inventors Association. They’ve learned not to give up when faced with failure or rejection, and this life experience, coupled with having the time available to pursue an idea, is a boon for the invention marketplace. Bonus: creativity and lifelong learning lowers the risk for dementia, and becomes a positive, self-perpetuating cycle: inventors become more creative the more they try out and develop new ideas, which in turn feeds their brains.

James West, for example, received eleven patents — after age 60. He’s now 84, and an inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Franklin Ramsey, 76, invented a trashcan that holds bags in place. So far, nearly seven million units have been sold. The key, says Ramsey, is to notice what’s not working and see how you can improve upon it — to “always keep [your] mind open.”

We might liken the former HECM program to yesterday’s retirement: more accessible to all, perhaps, but with hidden pitfalls that could take a senior in a financially precarious position rapidly downhill. The Financial Assessment, while appearing to be more arduous, is a way of reinventing the HECM that can benefit many people down the line. After all, while bingo and golf are enjoyable pastimes, potable water saves lives.


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