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Boomers, Embrace This One Thing to Earn More and Live Better

09/11/2013 05:36 EDT | Updated 11/11/2013 05:12 EST

Canada's national magazine, Maclean's, recently featured a "chilling" cover story entitled "Why Boomers are Doomed: Inside a Looming Crisis". The supposed expose delves into the self-indulgent boomers and why their life choices over the years will leave them doomed when it comes to healthcare, pensions and more.

Such negative stories are common, especially from traditional media outlets. The problem is, the article pretty much ignores the fact that tech savvy boomers have opportunities galore; opportunities never before available to previous generations in retirement years. Forget about becoming a "Wal-Mart Greeter" to make ends meet; tech savvy boomers will be supplementing their retirement income far more lucratively, if they wish.

In fact, it's a false argument to say older Canadians will have to work more; the new digital world gives seniors the opportunity to work more, but only if they choose. Let's step back for a moment. Baby boomers have arguably been the "lucky generation". They've lived through some of the most beneficial economic, social and technological changes in human history. Born into a 40-year post war economic boom where opportunities and employment were available for the taking, boomers have lived in a 'golden era'. It ain't about to stop just because they're moving into their 60s today and 70s and 80s tomorrow.

Of course, it's not all rosy. As the leading edge of the baby boom eases into retirement, for the first time in their lives the prospects for these boomers to remain full-time in the workforce seem bleak. An economic downturn, increasing global competition, technological disruption, shrinking public services and increased competition from younger cohorts are all combining to create challenges boomers never faced in the workforce.

But -- and this is a big but -- with the digital transformations of communications and education, boomers have the opportunity to ride yet another social and technological change to continued success -- if they choose to take advantage of it.

In the Origin of Species Charles Darwin argued not for 'the survival of the fittest' but for the 'survival of the most adaptable'. In the business world, adaptation has always been a requirement for career success, but never more so than today. When the pace of change is slow then gradual adaptation was acceptable and even preferable. But when the pace of change accelerates like today, adaptation is essential to ongoing success.

Fortunately, when considered with an open mind, adaptation has never been so easy. During much of a boomers career information technology was pretty hard. Today it's easy to use and getting easier. Tools like smartphones, tablets, Google, WordPress, social media sites and more are so easy to use that once-techno challenged Boomers are far from being digital dinosaurs -- if they're open to trying. In addition, there's lots of help available to boomers who want to give their skills an upgrade to match new employment -- or contract -- requirements.

For example, new digital education alternatives are popping up every day and there are many great websites dedicated to digital learning; from a myriad of exciting Canadian startups supported by Innovation hub MaRS to the Khan Academy and Coursera.

The Coursera network has almost 5 million registered students online and offers courses through its partnership with world-class universities. Courses are taught by leading professors from some of the finest universities in the world. And it's free. Anyone can learn anything they want; from a new language to how artificial intelligence works, to statistics and data analysis to energy and earth sciences. It's all there on your computer screen and available to anyone who wants to keep up to speed or change career course.

At the dawn of this new era, they talked about "pick and pay" television where we could watch what we wanted when we wanted, instead of being at the mercy of TV programming executives. With Netflix and smart television, that arrived long ago. Now, we're into a "pick and learn" era for anyone who wants to use digital tools to excel personally and professionally.

There simply is no reason anymore for the lucky boomer generation (or anyone else), to not take advantage of many of these great opportunities because technology has moved from the hardcore technologist stage to technology for the masses. If you can use Excel you can use virtually any consumer Internet technology.

And as we age, technology will make the future even friendlier. Healthcare professionals, for example, are "personalizing" medicine in so many ways from specific drugs tailored to our unique DNA make up to easy-to-use digital monitors that measure in real-time things like blood-sugar counts or blood pressure levels. We'll explore these advances more in future columns, but if you want to find out more now then read anything from cardiologist and genetics researcher Eric Topol.

Don't worry Boomers and don't believe the old traditional media, which are still stuck in the old business model of scare tactics and negativity. The future is awesome, especially when you embrace it.

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