I confess that I’m an older boomer and I’ve always felt that I was quite different throughout my life than my younger boomer friends. I remember listening to radio because we didn’t get our TV until I was about 7 or 8 (and of course it was black and white). I was at the very impressionable age of 15 when our beloved Camelot president, JFK, was assassinated. I was one of 40 students in most of my overcrowded high school classes (not to mention one of 2000 graduates). I was still in high school when the free speech and women’s movements were just getting started. I was draft age when they were drafting young men to go to war in Vietnam. I was in college when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. Compare that to someone born in 1960: no draft, too young for there to have been any impact of assassinations of heroes, or even if you weren’t a supporter, of major leaders. The newspapers had already eliminated the “Men Wanted” and “Women Wanted” classified want-ad distinction (not to say there wasn’t still discrimination, it’s just that it wasn’t endorsed in newspapers). And they had already built all those schools needed to house the growing population.
Even our music was different. I grew up on early Rock’n’Roll, (Elvis, Mamas & Papas, Dion, Stevie Wonder), Motown, Doo Wop, and folk music. Folk music sung by Pete Seeger, that newcomer Joan Baez, early Dylan, Peter, Paul, & Mary. Even the Boss wasn’t around when I was heavily into buying records because although we’re about the same age, he didn’t make it until he was in his late 20’s and by that time I was already working with not enough money to go to concerts. The Gen Joneses barely remember the Beatles as a group.
Ok, you get the point. There are different cohorts of Baby Boomers and I think it’s really important that we distinguish between the two. We early boomers are the ones that our kids are now concerned about (and we are concerned about our spouses and partners). The kids are starting to do things for us, just as we did for our parents. They come over and we ask them to do some of the tasks we can no longer do: climb the ladder to change the light bulb we can't reach; move the piece of furniture; carry the heavy bags because I can’t. If they prefer to drive, I’m fine with that.
That’s not happening for the Gen Jonesers. Not yet at least. So how do we deal with it? Well, I’ll tell you, it’s not easy. I resent when someone uses the word “aging” in a derogatory way. There’s nothing wrong with aging (as the old joke goes, it beats the alternative.) I’m not trying to be younger. Let me repeat that: I’m not trying to be younger. I embrace that I’m older. And while I hate the fact that I can’t do some things anymore, or have many, many more aches, pains, hurts, and difficulties, I’m in the “older” demographic now.
Not so with Gen Jonesers. Here’s a generalization: They’re trying to hold on to their youth. They’re not happy being lumped with us oldsters. Even AARP and my favorite website for which I’ve written several articles, www.nextavenue.org are aimed at what they call “50+.” Harrumph. Is it all because 60+ sounds so bad?
Do they think that we early boomers don’t use the web? Do they think we don’t spend money? Are you kidding me? We spend more now because we have more. We travel more and to more exotic (and expensive) destinations. In fact, the highest paid folks are those that are in their late fifties and early sixties, the older boomers. Our kids are out of college, we now have grandkids whom we shower with gifts. The Gen Jonesers still have kids in college (or rebounded back so they’re living with them). They have less disposable income.
Do you know how wonderful it is to be eligible for Medicare? I didn’t have to play the Affordable Health Care Act games. Do you know how great it feels to get a payment every month from Social Security? I’m still working some, as is my wife. So that SSA payment sure is a nice gift (no, we didn’t put it off until age 70 for a variety of personal reasons). Here’s a brief anecdote: I’m a monitor at a local off leash dog park. As such, I sometimes have to ask a dog owner to rein in his dog because of over aggressiveness, or for some other infraction like bringing a young child into the park. I can confront the person (respectfully) because I’m older and know that no young dude is gonna hit or threaten me. It’s not exactly something he’d be proud of that he was able to beat up an old guy. If he doesn’t do what I’m asking, that’s one thing. But I’m not afraid as I think some of the younger monitors are.
So here are my challenges:
To AARP, Next Avenue, and all of those who lump baby boomers together with Gen Jonesers: STOP trying to tell us that we should try to be young. That we should fight aging. There are so many wonderful things about getting older.
To those of you who are the older boomers: BE PROUD of your age. Take advantage of all the benefits (including those discounts we get). Also, ask your kids to help you out and don’t be embarrassed about asking.
To you Gen Jonesers: don’t try to “hold on to your youth” or fight getting older. Fight to maintain your health, your happiness, and your values. Don’t fight age. Teach your kids to value age. And look forward to getting older.