BATH — This year marks the 80th anniversary of the approval of the Social Security Act. But today, as baby boomers charge over the finish line – turning 65 and becoming eligible for Social Security and Medicare – a lot of them are having to continue to work.

Saving for the nest egg that insurance companies, financial planners and active adult community developers constantly remind us is necessary for retirement has not been possible for many working Americans.

They have had to use most of their earnings to cover their daily expenses. Any savings they have been able to set aside have been devoted to paying for their children’s education. The high cost of health care has also taken a significant bite out of any funds that might have been saved for the golden dreams of retirement promised in the endless ads for companies hoping to scoop up those retirement savings.

The inequity of opportunity for a golden retirement, in spite of Social Security and Medicare, is not only an economic inequity but also a psychological and spiritual one.

The late psychologist Erik Erikson, in his theory of the stages of personality development, wrote that the last, eighth stage of personality development is the stage of either ego integrity or despair.

This is the time, according to Erikson, when humans review their lives and determine whether they have been meaningful according to their personal values, or whether their lives have been misdirected or wasted according to their own standards.

The importance of this time of reckoning and seeking to live out one’s life in as meaningful a way as possible has been recognized by organizations committed to creating new options and possibilities for retirees, such as Encore, a nonprofit in California that helps people launch “second careers” to improve society.

A lot of these possibilities, however, assume that one is able to retire and then pursue activities to “give back,” “make a difference” and “build a legacy.”

It is much harder for those who must continue to work to take time for reflection on their lives and to seek similar opportunities. But it is essential that opportunities for self-reflection and new possibilities be available for them as well. All have acquired valuable skills and experience that can be utilized, if they choose, in new and more satisfying work.

Programs and resources are needed to provide counseling and information about new options for them that are designed around the realities of their working lives. Hopefully, the addition of Social Security funds and Medicare will ease the stresses in their lives and give them a little more latitude to pursue other possibilities.

When it was instituted by the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, Social Security was intended to provide relief from employment and the workplace, and give retirees a chance to spend more time with family and friends at the end of their lives.

At that time, the life expectancy of both men and women of all races was 61.7 years. In 2010, it was 78.7, and it continues to grow every year with new medical and technological discoveries.

Today, the years past age 65 continue to lengthen for most. And with the blessing of these additional years comes the opportunity for people to use their gifts, talents, skills and experience to do whatever is most meaningful to them. As in 1935, time to be with family and friends is more important, and all feel the need to slow the pace of their lives.

Continued or new work opportunities must accommodate the changing needs and utilize the capacities of the largest, best-educated and most fit population to ever reach the age of 65 in this country – all of them, not just those who have been able to save for the golden version of retirement envisioned by insurance companies, financial planners and active community developers. This should be the new social contract that we make on the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act.