Every workday, I engage in the perilous practice of sitting for hours on end staring at a computer screen—a habit, scientists say, that is as bad for you as smoking. I try to counteract this central facet of my daily life with bouts of vigorous physical activity, but I can’t be sure I’ve righted the balance. In that, I am hardly alone. It turns out that while we baby boomers will likely live longer than our parents, we are apt to eke out our final years in more advanced states of decrepitude (see Health & Science). We have a higher propensity than any previous generation for obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and soaring cholesterol. Too many of us are destined to live into our dotage only thanks to statins, insulin, and quadruple bypass surgeries.
The latest confirmation of my generation’s self-indulgence won’t improve our shaky standing with those who’ve come after us. Younger Americans already clamor for the jobs that boomers are hanging on to for dear life. Wait until they’re forced to take on the monstrous cost of the Social Security benefits and medical care of the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. No one even wants to think about that burden, as President Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio both demonstrated this week. In his State of the Union address, Obama took note of the rising cost of old-age health care and said we all “must embrace the need for modest reforms,” while in the Republican response, Rubio swore he “would never support any changes to Medicare that would hurt seniors like my mother.” Why do I get the feeling they’re both whistling past the graveyard—my graveyard?