A growing number of older Coloradans are opting for retireless living inside an RV

Posted at 9:35 PM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-19 12:15:58-05

A growing number of older Coloradans are giving up their homes and going on the road to live and make money.

Judy Dumcum and her husband, Bob, are campground hosts at Cherry Creek State Park. Both represent a new kind of retirement – living the dream full-time from their luxury RV.

"It's like a camp for geezers," said Judy with a laugh. 

Chris Pentico and his wife, LeeAnne, also retired in their RV after medical debt forced them into bankruptcy.

“When I became disabled two years ago, I went broke,” said Chris Pentico. "My parents said go to school, work your butt off and you'll be able to retire well. That's not true. At least it hasn't been for us."

Whether by choice or necessity, this is not what either couple initially envisioned for their retirement.

"It's a totally different ballgame than it was even 20 years ago," Kim Gorgens, a clinical psychologist at the University of Denver told Denver7.

Gorgens studies aging at DU and said this graying “camper force” embodies the spirit of seniors in this day and age. Statistics show half of all seniors still have mortgage debt – leaving many to postpone retirement.

"It's a way to unshoulder mortgage debt. It's a way to reduce expenses,” Gorgens said. “It's way to engage in your life and to build a community and to travel with that community."

No longer aging in place, many older Coloradans are traveling in RVs to find jobs all over the country. Workamper News, a resource for RVers looking for a gig, has reported around 14,000 members – most of them seniors.

Amazon has a dedicated "Camper Force," providing seasonal labor at shipping centers during the holidays.

For the Penticos, living on the road is more practical. LeeAnne is a retired Aurora schoolteacher, now caring for her husband full-time – both living on his Social Security disability.

New statistics show most U.S. households are heading for a worse lifestyle in retirement than they had while they were working, simply because they are not saving enough money.

"We see a lot of elderly people living month to month in these little tiny trailers," said Chris. 

Despite the challenges, the Penticos say this lifestyle is better than the alternative -- low-income housing with little flexibility. In a camper, they can travel and see their family, especially the grandkids.

LeeAnne hopes to supplement their income by work camping, but they still have fear about what they will do when they are too old to keep moving.

"Worst case scenario is we live with one of the girls, say 'Hey, mom's moving in," said LeeAnne. "But I couldn’t see plunking us in a cheap apartment someplace, being away from family and not being able to go anywhere and sitting. So it becomes a nice alternative."


Want to be a work camper?

Work camping: Seasonal jobs on the road

Report on retirement in an RV

Rambling retirees buck aging-in-place trend


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