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The Pig in the Python

Baby Boomers in America


Thursday, November 29, 2012

I’m a baby boomer, one of approximately 78 million living in America today. We’re the post-WWII generation born between 1946 and 1964. (For those who don’t want to do the math, that makes us somewhere between 48 and 66 years old. Trust me, we can’t believe it either.)

We’re everywhere, and we’re not going away anytime soon. Every day, for the next 18 years, 8,000 of us will turn 65, one every 10 seconds (that’s five more while you were reading this), and we’re going to live a lot longer than any previous generation. There are books about us, internet sites too numerous to mention — heck, we’re even becoming a genre in films (think Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, and latest pinup stud Tommy Lee Jones, who just squeezed in at 66). We’re also big in politics. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were born in 1946, Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin in ’64. Barack is a boomer, too.

Marilyn Gillard

Around the country, magazines and newspapers, in print and online, are devoting entire sections to the phenomenon that is “us” — and the fact that we’re the most affluent consumer group in America is not escaping anyone’s attention either. We are renowned for reinventing ourselves, for creating second acts that rival or surpass our first, and we are becoming comfortable in our own, albeit saggy, skins. But not everyone is a fan. Sociologists have referred to us apocalyptically as the “Silver Tsunami” or the unsettling “Pig in the Python,” a grisly illustration of the unprecedented population bulge. Paul Begala famously called us “The Worst Generation” in his article for Esquire. I looked up when he was born: 1961 … and that would make him … a baby boomer! Uh, Paul …?

Despite our protestations to the contrary, most of us are not middle-aged, that is, unless we’re planning on living to 110, 120, or 130 years old. But because of the longevity factor, we’re not old either. The prevailing notion of “60 being the new 40” is erroneous and misguided — our bodies know that, even if we ply them with diet and exercise and all sorts of interesting surgeries. In 1931, when life expectancy was 59.4 for men, 60 was the new dead. Even our parents’ generation saw retirement as the beginning of the end, a denouement, if you will. The deeper truth is “60 is the new 60,” and we are realizing that it’s time we start getting good at getting old if we want to end up being good at being old.

But who are we, in the flesh, apart from the demographics? How are we navigating these uncharted waters of middlessence (real word — I kid you not)? Our challenges lie in every arena: romance, finance, kith, and kin. We’ve got aging parents and boomerang kids, receding hairlines, and expanding girth, and we fervently pray that our years don’t outlast our savings.

We try to stay current with technology, though personally, there are entire aisles at Best Buy that I don’t understand, and my own children can barely watch me text, their exasperated looks mingled with pity and disdain. We’re getting facelifts and Ferraris and 563 friends on Facebook, we’re downsizing and divorcing, and some of us are even dying. (Bette Davis wasn’t kidding when she said that aging “is not for sissies” — some of this is tough stuff.)

But being a boomer is not all bad. Many of us will have 20, 30, and even 40 years to create the next chapter of our lives, and we’re doing our damnedest to make every second count. We’re working, traveling, mentoring, and volunteering, and, according to recent studies, we’re having plenty of sex, too — unfortunately, though, not always with our spouses (no names, please).

Truth be told, we’re a helluva generation, and we’ve got a lot to offer. If you’re a Gen Xer or a millennial, you might want to spend some time hanging out with us. We’re not hard to find. Remember, we’re everywhere.

Jagwar Ma

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