The New Senior Adult

At 67, Connie Corkill believes she’s hit the sweet spot in life. Happy, healthy, and energetic, Corkill spends her time traveling, visiting friends, and running her business. Like many of her peers over 50, Corkill doesn’t let the label senior adult define her.

“I’m a young senior adult,” she says. “Advancements in medicine mean we can live longer, more active lives. We’re a different generation than our parents, and we act much differently.” MIDDLE ADULT Corkill is part of a new generation of middle adults who are more optimistic, more hopeful, and more youthful than their predecessors. Falling between the ages of 50 to 69, middle adults tend to embrace wellness, positivity, and adaptation to change.

“Middle adults 50 to 69 have decades of life ahead,” says Jan Sexton, director of Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program. “They are healthy and happy and at the peak of their influence.”

Retired or semi-retired, middle adults have usually hit peak wealth and are healthy enough to enjoy the perks of senior adulthood. Since retiring, 64-year-old Anne Beyer has swum with stingrays, toured Scotland, and scuba-dived in the Caribbean. “I’ve been all over the world,” she says. “As a senior adult, I have the time to do things that younger generations can’t do as easily, either because of work, family, or financial reasons.”

Corkill has also embraced middle adulthood. Semi-retired, Corkill stays busy running her business, Connie’s Cuties. After working as a hairdresser and Hallmark representative as a busy mother of three, Corkill found happiness designing her own holiday decor and working as an interior designer. “I love being creative and showing my creations off at craft and trade shows,” she says. “I believe a body in motion stays in motion. So, I try to stay active and do what I love.”

Middle adults are also redefining what it means to be a senior adult. A study on successful aging by the MacArthur Foundation found that seniors who looked at senior adulthood as a time of growth and change rather than stagnation and disability maintained good mental and physical health longer into old age.

The landmark study created a roadmap for aging that led to funding for programs that sought to keep seniors active and engaged. As these programs multiplied, a new group of senior adults emerged, armed with stronger social networks and a new sense of purpose. Since then, Sexton has adapted Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program to fit the needs of this growing group, whether it’s scheduling programs geared to a younger audience or providing more weekend trips for working seniors.

“New senior adults have goals they want to accomplish, look forward to the future, take better care of themselves, and enjoy supportive friendships,” says Sexton. “They are leaders in their communities with busy schedules and fast-paced lives.”

Technology use among new senior adults has also grown. Senior adults are now more connected than ever. According to surveys by Pew Research, 67 percent of seniors use the internet — a 55-percentage-point increase in about two decades. In addition, around 42 percent of adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18 percent in 2013.

“Today’s seniors aren’t just focused on making memories. They want to share those memories with family and friends in the most convenient way possible — through social media,” Sexton says. “Precinct 4’s Senior Adult Program is adapting to those needs. We now offer online registration, share our events on social media, and send out a monthly e-newsletter. Most of our senior adults use smartphones, so registration is mobile friendly.”

As the number of senior adults continues to grow, the Senior Adult Program is adapting to serve a wider range of needs. By 2030, one in six people nationwide will be over 65, a 47 percent increase in 15 years according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As Baby Boomers age, the oldest of Generation X, those born from the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s, will age into the senior adult program.

“We’re serving a wider audience now. Our goal is to continue providing the same level of service to our traditional senior adults while meeting the needs of a new generation,” Sexton concludes.