Generations and Age Groups
Ms. Froma Harrop’s Opinion piece, linked above, challenges all of us Baby Boomers to not surrender to the other groups coming up in the generational ranks.
Are you done at 61? Closing the door at 64? Barely alive at 75? Or are you skipping to my Lou at 82?
Come on everyone – don’t throw in the towel! As Ms. Harrop said in her Opinion piece, “there’s nothing noble about declaring oneself out of the game, whatever the game is.” I’m not saying that us Baby Boomers and older don’t have age-related changes – of course we do – but that doesn’t mean that nothing remains for us in the years ahead. In my recent blog article, A surprising fete by a Baby Boomer! I complained about a Florida reporter’s characterization of something that a 55-year old woman was able to accomplish – even at her advanced age. Click on the link to my article to get the full gist of my whining diatribe.
I am not advocating that you suddenly decide to beat 64-year old Diana Nyad’s swimming record, unless, of course you feel like doing so. I am advocating, however, that you explore what you’re able to do and capitalize on it. Start a new business, volunteer for organizations that you support, or just keep working at your current job as long as you still want to. Who’s stopping you? My former father-in-law turned 90-years old on September 18, 2013, and he still plays tennis and is still working at his commercial real estate development company. If Jimmy were to stop working, he’d probably collapse and die on the spot. Why? Because he enjoys being active and productive. So should you.
Don’t let the younger folks – anyone less than 50-years old – have all the fun! You can have fun too! I turned 60-years old this past May. I’ve always been an active person exercise-wise but most of that centered around taking lengthy neighborhood walks and gentle hikes. My exceptional and persistent daughter, Erin, decided I could do more. She purchased six sessions of Bar Method classes for each of us and presented it as my birthday/Mother’s Day gift. “It’ll be fun! Once you get there, I know you’ll love it.”
Very presumptuous on her part, but she was right! After six sessions, Erin dropped out (she has other mind-boggling exercises that she does) but I continued with the program. The biggest lesson that I learned through this process is that I can do more than I thought I could do. Bar Method is extremely difficult, but it’s not impossible. After the first six lessons, I was able to conclude that a) it didn’t kill me; b) it didn’t disable me; and c) I kicked ass! That’s right – I kicked ass. I am in a class of mostly 20-50 year olds, and I not only keep up, but sometimes I outlast the younger students. I go to class once a week and two to three additional times a week I exercise to the Bar Method DVDs at home – courtesy of my husband who installed a ballet bar in our exercise room. Thanks hubby!
If you lack confidence, go find some! If you’re hesitant to go it alone, find someone else with your same interests, and go for it together.
You are not done yet. To quote Ms. Harrop, “Every age group brings something to the party. And for every generation, the party’s not over until it’s over.”
What are you waiting for? Come join the party!
I have been asked to hold workshops at two different Middle School/Junior High Schools in the next few weeks in an attempt to show that the gap between us Baby Boomers and the pre-teen/young teen population isn’t as big as one might think.
The age group of this audience is not one with which I have ever worked but I absolutely love stretching my skill set so I’m very excited to take on this task. I hope to deliver a workshop that engages the younger age group and leaves them with the tools needed to be more comfortable connecting with people in older age groups.
Description of the workshop, submitted to the schools: There is so much to be shared between generations, but we often miss out because we feel as though we speak different languages – and sometimes we do. For example, when you say that something’s “filthy,” your grandparents might have said it was “boss.” Believe it or not, your grandparents, and your great grandparents, were your age once so you do have that in common, and while it’s true that there is a lot to learn from older generations, they can learn a lot from you, too.
That’s where you come in. We all know that there are obvious differences between the two generations, given the advancement of technology and the like, but I think a closer look at those differences brings about the realization that many similarities exist but they are just dressed differently.
I covet your input so please feel free to leave some suggestions and/or comments below.
A full-page newspaper ad for hearing aids, walkers, and safe bathtubs drew my attention the other morning:
“Seniors fear loss of independence more than death.”
I agree with that catch phrase, even though the final act of death brings its own fear level centered around how it will occur or whether or not it will be painful. But the loss of independence creates greater fear in me because of what it could mean:
- perhaps having to move out of my private residence;
- having my car keys taken away from me and being reliant on others for all of my transportation needs;
- being told what to wear, what and when to eat, and when to go to bed;
- not being able to bathe privately; reliant on someone else to make sure I get the job done right;
- speaking of which, needing assistance on the toilet OR having an alternate means of evacuating my bowels – ugh!;
- you name it – anything for which I am reliant, dependent, or beholden to someone else, scares me half to – well – death!
But maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m super sensitive to this issue because of my work with vulnerable adults in long-term care facilities. So I asked friends, family, and others with whom I’m acquainted what stands out as their greatest fear in their Baby Boomer years. Here is a summary of numerous responses to my query:
- loss of independence which oftentimes involves chronic illness and/or dementia that drains the household finances;
- loss of independence resultant from dementia as it seems to be prevalent in so many families;
- loss of independence thereby putting the burden of care on my spouse;
- loss of mobility;
I couldn’t resist listing the last response because it made me laugh while contemplating a subject matter that brings little humor to the table.
While taking a walk with a neighbor the other day, he concurred with the above, also adding that if a person had unlimited finances, loss of independence wouldn’t hurt as much: use of your own private driver, 24/7 caregiving in your own home, the best Chef money could buy so you’re not relegated to institutional “cuisine.” But you know, I’m not so sure that being able to afford all of the above would make me feel less dependent upon others than if I had a standard of living like most everyone else. Sure, the amenities are better, but the underlying cause for needing those amenities remains the same – the inability to do things for myself.
Now that we’ve all agreed that living an independent life is very precious to us – I know we understand more clearly why our parents or other loved ones fought the aging process every step of the way. I thought I was very empathetic to my father when he had to surrender his car keys. But now that I’m a wee bit older than I was at that time, I’m thinking I had no inkling of what my father went through as little by little he lost the independence he had enjoyed for eighty-some years.
But how can we prepare so as to avoid a complete loss of independence?
Well, if you find the magic formula, please let us all know. As for me and my household, I’m concentrating on the here and now in preparation for the future. Here’s my contribution:
- Exercise like your life depends upon it – because it does. That doesn’t equate to running marathons or riding the Tour de France, rather, it’s participating in a variety of exercise options to which you know you can commit. What works for you – not what everyone else is doing.
- Enjoy the food you eat but don’t be addicted to it. My husband and I have dessert every night and we use butter instead of margarine when we cook. Those are luxuries that we decided to enjoy while making sure that the rest of our diet is balanced and more healthy than not.
- Speaking of balanced, we love our wine, so nightly, we enjoy a glass during those post-workday (and post-exercise) moments while we catch up on our respective days. Oh, and we also enjoy another glass as it goes so wonderfully with dinner, don’t you think?
- Use your brain in ways that you don’t use it while at work. There’s still no fool-proof method of preventing Alzheimer’s or other dementia, but you’ll feel better about yourself if you continue to challenge what you know – and what you don’t know.
- Seek peace amongst the chaos. In my article, Where do you find peace?, I explore both how to find peace, and how to keep that peace from slipping away. Rather than repeat what I previously said, I hope you’ll find time to read my “peaceful” article.
Now it’s your turn. What are you doing to avoid what many of us fear the most? I know many Baby Boomers would benefit from hearing what you have to say. We’re all in this together – regardless of how far from each other we live – so let’s work together towards attaining the goal of remaining independent as long as we possibly can.
In an earlier article, “Retirement planning – its not what you think,” I talked about the planning required to have a quality of life after retiring from one’s job that relies on spending your time in a way that pleases you, and benefits others.
My closest friend, Sophia (not her real name), is in her 80th year of life and for the seven years that I’ve known her, Sophia has struggled with boredom, but not just boredom per se. Sophia wants to matter; she wants to make a difference; she wants to contribute to the world around her. In a recent e-mail to me, Sophia said:
“There are too many active Seniors roaming around the coffee shops and Malls wondering what to do next. Even my friend Walter, at age 97, felt a sense of accomplishment yesterday when he washed all the bed linens and remade the queen bed – this done using his walker, back and forth.”
Sophia epitomizes the bored retiree that I discuss in my article, “Voices of the bored retirees.” We often think that when we retire we’ll be satisfied with being able to golf whenever we want; sleep in as long as we want; work in the garden whenever we like, and read all the books we’ve stacked up, but not had the time, to read. My father was one of those retirees who longed for the opportunity to be on the golf course as often as he wanted. A month post-retirement, he was bored with it all.
Another quote from my friend Sophia: “I really believe that much that we call Alzheimer’s is just a simple lack of interest in remembering what no longer matters. There is definitely a veiled space that occurs now and then when it is either too painful to remember, or not worth it to try. This, in addition to physical pain and boredom, can reach a kind of black hole.”
I know my friend very well, so I know that she doesn’t support that type of Alzheimer’s reasoning, but what she said really resonated with me. Too often we focus too much on what doesn’t matter, and far too little on what can matter greatly in our remaining years. Gerontologist S. Barkin believes that we have a responsibility to actively walk through our retirement (or Baby Boomer) years:
“What do we want to do for the remaining time in our life? We all should be mining our experiences and the wisdom therein to help with our present, and our future paths.”
Most of us, even when we’re enjoying the relaxation we so richly deserve in our retirement, truly strive to create a new purpose for our life. We want a reason to get up in the morning. We strive to contribute to the community around us.
Does the retirement age need to be raised in order for that to occur? Or can we be just as effective, and less bored, by cultivating a lasting purpose after we’ve entered the long sought-after retirement phase of our lives?
O.K. BABY BOOMERS OUT THERE:
- What’s your plan?
- What’s working – or not working – for you?
- What’s your cure for boredom?