Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

I attribute my odd fascination with all things employment to my years in PEO. I find myself scanning articles about macro employment trends, geographic statistics, healthcare studies, seniors, new grads, whatever. So a recent book review, titled NomadLand: Surviving America in the Twenty First Century by Jessica Bruder, not surprisingly caught my attention.

At first I thought it was a modern Jack Kerouac type novel detailing a new real life counter culture taking to the great American Road Trip. Instead, author Bruder focused attention on what is an emerging labor pool largely based around aging seniors who have for various reasons, mostly economic, taken to the road, to work in various seasonal job throughout the US. These Seniors have released themselves from one of the largest expenses for Americans, traditional brick and mortar dwellings, mortgages, rent, property taxes, etc. and are now living in everything from RVs, to campers, to redesigned SUVs.

Whether they lost houses in the great recession or retirement plans can’t keep up with increasing costs, this new lifestyle provides more financial freedom but certainly a choice that comes with a cost.

The book has an interesting take on another side of the senior experience, as the aging population continues to reshape so many economic and social factors. The baby boomers started to turn 65 in 2011 and have continued ever since.

Some Demographic Stats:

  • The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent.
  • Older adults are working longer. By 2014, 23 percent of men and about 15 percent of women ages 65 and older were in the labor force, and these levels are projected to rise further by 2022, to 27 percent for men and 20 percent for women.
  • Many parts of the country—especially counties in the rural Midwest—are “aging in place” because disproportionate shares of young people have moved elsewhere.

The author details her experience in a second hand RV, alongside these travelers; their trials and tribulations of a very labor-intensive lifestyle and their sense of celebrated created communities. These seniors travel and work in field crops, national forests, even Amazon’s CamperForce programs in Texas, that welcomes this aging population in warehouse positions year after year. These jobs though come at a cost, as they are often physically taxing and only earn worker’s low wages.

The other side is this idea of community, and freedom, that has been established on the open road. Reunions in the desert, communities who will stay and help those injured until they are once again “road ready.” It is a targeted group of people that directly understand the experience of their fellow neighbor or should I say traveler.
The personal accounts of stories of individuals taking to this lifestyle are fascinating.

Communities born out of economic need? Is this the future for more Senior Americans? Is this sustainable as age truly sets in and driving is not an option? What next? Do these Seniors have a backup plan?

The senior population will continue to reshape the landscape of America in ways we probably have not imagined.

Interesting, well, at least to me.

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