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March 06, 2007:
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ANNAPOLIS - Instead of becoming a couch potato, get out and work.
That is what senior citizen advocates and state officials advised Tuesday in support of a bill that asks the state to set up a panel to come up with things for baby boomers to do instead of retiring.
"There's a number of people that might become couch potatoes but instead can become resources," said Delegate James Hubbard, D-Prince George's, the bill's sponsor. "We don't want people playing dominoes and shuffle board but want them using their expertise."
The bill defines baby boomers as people who were born between 1946 and 1964.
If it passes the General Assembly, the bill would create a Baby Boomer Initiative Council that would study the social and economic impact of baby boomers' roles in the economy and in the community.
The council would include state government officials, educators, business people and boomers themselves. The council would develop recommendations for addressing the needs of the baby boomer population, and how boomers can contribute to younger generations.
The council's goal is to capitalize on baby boomers' strengths, instead of letting them retire. The council wants to provide ways for them to work as volunteers in schools, nonprofit organizations and state agencies. The council would also study the health benefits of having baby boomers work with younger generations.
"Seniors are not a drag or drain on society but can be a resource if given a chance," said Paul Willging, an associate director for the Center on Aging and Health for Johns Hopkins University.
Michael Lachance, legislative liaison for the Maryland Department of Aging, said that many baby boomers do not want to retire.
"Many have an interest in a second career," he said. "There's a large number of public workers, state and federal, that are eligible for retirement, but most are not going to stop working."
Lachance said that there are many retirees who want to try their hand at something new - like politics.
"These are folks who have re-engaged themselves," he said. "They don't stop caring about society just because they get old."
He also said that promoting baby boomer involvement in the community instead of letting them retire helps them stay healthy.
"The longer they stay engaged, the healthier they are," he said. "It's the person who retires and has nothing to do that dies within a year or two."
Lachance said the main goals of the bill are to help baby boomers stay connected in society, have relationships working with younger generations and to help businesses understand that older workers are still valuable.
Willging agreed that having baby boomers stay involved does help them stay healthy. He said that a program called Experience Corps, which places older adults in Baltimore City Public Schools to help mentor students, has helped students and the seniors as well.
The program has 15 to 20 volunteers in 15 public elementary schools throughout Baltimore. "We put them in schools not as teachers but as grandmothers and grandfathers," he said. "They do all the things that teachers don't have time to do."