7 Surprising Ways Retirement Has Gotten Easier

If you read the financial headlines, you'll get the sense that retirement may be a disaster for many Americans. With a decline in employer-provided pensions and uncertainty over the future of government benefits, many older Americans are rightfully concerned about whether they will be able to retire comfortably.

But there is considerable evidence that the experience of retiring is actually much better than in the past. Medical advancements are helping people live longer, and technology is helping to keep seniors connected to the world. And there are more resources for retirees than ever before. (See also: How to Overcome These 4 Common Retirement Fears)

Let's examine these ways in which retirement has improved.

1. It's lasting longer

There was a time not too long ago when people would work into their 60s and pass away within a decade or so. But these days, it's not uncommon for people to retire at age 60 and live another 30 years or more. Statistics from the Social Security Administration show that the average 65-year-old man will live another 19 years in retirement, up from 15 years two decades ago. That's a lot of time to travel, connect with the grandkids, and pursue all of the hobbies and interests you've been neglecting. While this longer retirement places pressure on people to save more, it's obviously a boon to seniors who have worked hard and deserve a lengthy retirement. (See also: 5 Ways American Retirement Is Changing)

2. Your living options are better

As the population has gotten older, there has been a recognition that older citizens need different kinds of living arrangements that offer them support while still preserving independence. There is now a whole growing industry surrounding assisted living and elder care that involves more than just nursing homes. Older people have the option of living at home with some help, or moving into special communities that allow them to live freely while having access to care as they need it. In many cases, older people can move into a community while they are still healthy and active, and remain there as they begin to need more care. While some of these arrangements can be expensive, they have allowed many seniors to maintain an active lifestyle and remain connected socially well into their retirement years. (See also: A Granny Pod May Be the Smartest Way to Care for an Elderly Parent)

3. The internet has kept us connected

Seniors can FaceTime with their grandkids. They can watch YouTube videos to get gardening or cooking tips. They can use the internet for genealogy research, and share photos of their travels. There are even dating apps for older singles. While technology is moving fast and not always user-friendly for seniors, our new connected way of life has benefited older Americans by expanding their options for activities and keeping them less isolated. The Pew Research Center this year reported that 58 percent of seniors feel that technology has had a positive benefit on society, and nearly half say broadband internet access is an important thing to have.

4. Travel is easier

While it's true that airport security has made air travel more hectic in recent years, there are other aspects of travel that have gotten easier for seniors. The internet has made booking flights and hotels effortless, and competition among online travel sites has made it easier to find great prices. The explosion of the cruise industry has been great for seniors, and touring companies have become smarter about accommodating the various needs of older travelers. The World Economic Forum also noted that transportation infrastructure improvements worldwide has made traveling easier for seniors over the years. (See also: 6 Ways Travel in Retirement Keeps You Young)

5. Health care is better

Yes, there are still problems with our health care system. But there's no mistaking that we've made great progress over the years in identifying and treating many ailments and diseases. We've also made it easier for seniors to access and afford care. Consider that before 1965, older Americans did not have access to Medicare to help pay for care and treatments, and it was not until 2006 when a prescription drug benefit became available. All of this has not only helped many people live longer, but maintain a more active and healthy lifestyle deep into retirement. (See also: Follow These 5 Steps to Full Health Care Coverage in Retirement)

6. It's no longer all or nothing

It used to be that retirement was a 100 percent proposition. It was either work full-time, or not at all. Now, seniors can ease their way into retirement, or even stay merely semiretired, thanks to the growth of freelance work and the "gig" economy. The internet has opened up more opportunities for freelance writing and consulting. Uber, the popular ride sharing company, estimates that 25 percent of its drivers are over age 50. And retailers including Amazon are increasingly seeking seasonal help that might offer opportunities for older people. (See also: 6 Great Retirement Jobs)

7. People are looking out for you

In the last half century or so, there's been growth in the number of organizations advocating for older citizens. There's the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which has become one of the most powerful advocacy groups in the country. There's the Village to Village Network, which encourages the formation of thriving communities for seniors. Meanwhile, local governments have formed agencies specifically dedicated to the lives of senior citizens in their communities. While there is always debate about whether we can do more for older citizens, there's no doubt that resources have become more plentiful and available over the years.

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7 Surprising Ways Retirement Has Gotten Easier

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