Feature

Baby boomers: Old age arrives

In 2011, the first of the baby boom generation will turn 65, making boomers Medicare-eligible “senior citizens.”

“It’s official,” said Brad Knickerbocker in The Christian Science Monitor online. The generation that hoped to die before it got old has, well, gotten old. In 2011, the first of the baby boom generation, defined by demographers as those born between 1946 and 1964, will turn 65, making boomers Medicare-eligible “senior citizens.” This was the generation that defined itself by its youth, said Dan Barry in The New York Times, and the prospect of old age isn’t sitting well with its 79 million members. They may have forced an end to the Vietnam War and cavorted in the mud of Woodstock. But they also grew up filled with a strong sense of entitlement and specialness, which is now colliding with the limitations imposed by Father Time. A host of polls and studies show a creeping sense of gloom among these former Flower Children, more and more of whom view encroaching senescence as “what might technically be called a ‘bummer.’”

We’re not ready for the grave quite yet, said Ellen Goodman in The Boston Globe. Thanks to the “longevity revolution” brought about by medical science, we boomers have decades of active, healthy life to look forward to, and we intend to make the most of them. Retirement is turning “from slow-mo to go-go,” said Barbara Marshall in the Palm Beach, Fla., Post. More and more of us are choosing to work past 65, even if we don’t need the money. Believe it or not, 55- to 64-year-olds are currently the fastest-growing group of Facebook users, and while we do want to travel in retirement, just like our parents, “the generation that backpacked in Europe as college students isn’t going to do it in a tour bus.” We’ll be on bikes and skis.

Boomers always did have a flair for self-delusion, said Susan Jacoby in The New York Times. The generation that once thought it could levitate the Pentagon by sheer will is now convinced it can defy old age. The reality is that the incidence of dementia doubles every five years after 65, and most of us will spend our final years in nursing homes and wheelchairs, trapped in feeble bodies and failing minds. We boomers have had a good run, and we made some terrific rock ’n’ roll, said Kevin Kittredge in the Roanoke, Va., Times. But the time has come to face reality: “Our day is passing, whether we want to admit it or not.”

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