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Poll: Retirement for Older Americans Seen As Time for Active Life - 2002-06-19

Ninety-five percent of people in the United States aged 55-64 said they will continue to pursue an active life after they retire, according to a new Harris Poll. That's 20 percent up from a similar poll taken four years ago.

The poll underscores the growth of a younger-feeling, healthier, over-55 U.S. population that sees the retirement years as a time to live, work and learn.

Eighty-one percent of those polled said they want to continue to learn, and seven out of 10 say they want to try new things.

Humphrey Taylor of Harris Interactive, which conducted the poll, said more than one-quarter of those polled are healthy, wealthy and well-educated and fit into a category he calls the ageless explorers.

"These are people who say that they want to do a whole lot of new things after they retire. Many of them are continuing to work. They expect to have new interests, new hobbies, to broaden their horizons, and it is not a time of winding down as far as they are concerned," Mr. Taylor said.

Another 22 percent, Mr. Taylor said, have the same goals as the explorers but less money and thus are more dependent on part-time work to finance their lust for travel and other activities.

Mr. Taylor said only 19 percent of those polled anticipate a traditional retirement lifestyle of leisure. "They will play some golf, have enough money to live comfortably and take a lot of interest in their family and their grandchildren, but it is a time for them of winding down," he said.

Not all older Americans are sanguine about the future, however. Thirty-two percent of those polled have a negative outlook on retirement. These, Mr. Humphrey said, tend to be people troubled by illness or financial problems.

The study was commissioned by AIG SunAmerica, a financial services firm that specializes in retirement planning, to find out more about the attitudes of potential clients.

Spokesman John Pluhowski said the results tell him people on the verge of retiring today have very different needs from their predecessors. "Those who are thinking about retirement really don't see retirement as a winding down, as a stepping back, as a disconnect in life. In fact, on the contrary, retirees today are really looking to have very active new beginnings, both in work and in leisure," he said.

The dictionary definition for "retire" is "to withdraw from action, to retreat." Mr. Pluhowski said the word "retirement" no longer accurately describes the stage that follows lifetime employment.