It’s not necessarily your parents’ retirement anymore.
On the Road with the ‘Workampers,’ Amazon’s Retirement-Age Mobile Workforce
Last fall writer Spencer Woodman visited a campground called Buckeye Mobile/RV Estates outside of Coffeyville, Kansas, where a number of migratory workers were waiting to start temporary work at Amazon’s nearby warehouse. Called workampers, they are “mostly retirement-age migrant workers who have taken to the road in RVs and camper vans in pursuit of temporary jobs to make ends meet.”
But the workamper lifestyle isn’t just about finding temporary work:
Although workampers’ schedules can be grueling, they are quick to express appreciation for the community and sense of belonging that their migratory life offers them. The workers at Buckeye not only lived and worked together but formed close bonds and shared a fierce camaraderie.
One workamper told Woodman, “You need to just get in the RV and explore. You won’t get rich doing it, but you get a lot of experiences and you meet the greatest people.”
Woodman wondered if such enthusiasm for the migratory lifestyle might be rationalization, a means of glossing over the harsh economic realities that force people to keep moving in a search for one temporary job after another. But, he writes, many workampers talk about the lifestyle with a zeal that “can become almost evangelical.” Most of them see this life as a way to throw off the shackles of a stationary, materialistic view of life, to abandon “the entire orders of value that workampers have left behind.”
Several comments posted under the article reinforce this view. Len Randol wrote:
At the age of 36 I went fulltime and left our sticks and bricks life behind. I had a job in corporate management and took my family to live a life full of adventure, a life building memories. Connecting with nature and community in a way that didn’t seem possible in in our wash/rinse/repeat lifestyle of before.
Cheryl Henry posted:
Thousands of us WILLINGLY gave up our sticks and bricks home and a life style that is stressful and/or boring! Sure there are those who struggle, but they probably did when they were anchored to one place… . Most of are NOT running around saying “oh poor me”! We are happy traveling to places of our choice, seeing places in this country we could not have afforded to go visit even for a few days. Now we not only get to go, but get to stay for months at a time if we so choose. If we don’t like the place or the neighbors, we move! We have been across the country east to west, north to south and met some wonderful people and made great friends.
Georgia Bissonette said that after the loss of her son:
I wanted to live again, I wanted to get out of bed and my overwhelming grief and fall in love with this world again! I live and love in a 28ft space with my husband,2 cats and our old dog! And I couldn’t be happier! We are leaving Tennessee this weekend, where are we heading? Where the wind blows us!
This lifestyle is obviously not for everyone, but both the article and the comments suggest that, for some, it is an appealing choice.
Retirees Turn to Virtual Villages for Mutual Support
I had not heard of “virtual retirement villages, whose members pay a yearly fee to gain access to resources and social connections that help them age in place”:
At the core of these villages is conciergelike service referrals for members, said Judy Willett, national director of the Village to Village Network. Members can find household repair services, and sometimes even personal trainers, chefs or practitioners of Reiki, the Japanese healing technique. Most important, the villages foster social connections through activities like potlucks, happy hours and group trips.
One major benefit of virtual retirement villages is that it counters the social isolation that aging adults often experience. Members keep in touch by telephone as well as on websites and by email and social media sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
virtual villages are popping up all over the country. Currently, there are 140 villages in 40 states, according to Village to Village Network, which helps establish and manage the villages. Another 120 virtual villages are on the drawing boards.
For more information, see Village to Village Network.