* Many turning 65 next year plan to continue working
* A significant number plan to pursue education
* About 7,000 boomers a day to turn 65 next year
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Despite the economic turmoil of the last few years, the leading edge of baby boomers turning 65 next year are content with their lives and many want to continue working for as long as they can, a survey released on Wednesday found.
While many boomers turning 65 next year have concerns about financial security and health, the survey found 82 percent are optimistic about the next five years, according to a survey released by the AARP, an influential advocacy group for older Americans.
Seven in 10 said they achieved all or most of what they wanted in life and 78 percent said they were satisfied with the way things are going in their lives, the AARP survey said.
"They are pretty satisfied with what they have accomplished so far," said Steve Cone, AARP executive vice president.
"They are looking forward to being around for a good many years to come and unlike previous generations, 40 percent of (those working) say they never are going to retire. They are going to work until they drop," Cone said.
The survey of 801 people turning 65 next year was conducted by Woelfel Research Inc for the AARP. The results could have significance for companies facing an aging workforce and for real estate markets as the vast majority said they plan to stay where they are and grow old in their homes.
The more than 76 million-strong baby boom generation is generally defined as those born from 1946 to 1964. The first wave will turn 65 next year at rate of about 7,000 a day and become eligible for the Medicare federal healthcare program for the elderly.
They will not be eligible for full Social Security retirement benefits until age 66 as the United States has begun gradually raising the retirement age from 65 to 67.
About half, 54 percent, of those turning 65 next year have retired, while 34 percent are still in the workforce. About a third, 35 percent, of those working said they returned to work after retiring from a previous career, the survey found and 40 percent said they plan to work as long as possible.
A significant number of those surveyed, 44 percent, said they plan to take classes or learn something new, while 61 percent said they want to travel more.
The desire to continue working, travel or continue with education reflects an attitude that has defined the baby boom generation and longer life expectancy than previous generations, Cone said.
"Baby boomers think they're much younger than they are, they always have," he said.
The survey showed that the average baby boomer expects to live until at least age 85, just a few years shy of the 89 years they want to live, the survey said.
Only about 2 percent of those surveyed said they had plans to relocate.
"This is a generation that started identifying who they are with what they do, so it's no surprise that they plan on staying active for as long as they can," Cone said.
"The 'tune in, turn on, drop out' crowd never got around to that last part." (Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Eric Walsh)