I don’t consider myself to be a Baby Boomer. The “Baby Boom generation” in America refers to those folks born from 1946 – 1964, mostly to parents who experienced World War II. They changed everything they touched (and continue to do so today). According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge regarding culture) Schuman and Scott reported that now there are 2 different Baby Boomer groups. The first cohort is currently over 55 (born from 1945- 1955). When polled in 1987, they listed the following as important:
- Memorable events: the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., political unrest, walk on the moon, risk of the draft into the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, social experimentation, sexual freedom, drug experimentation, civil rights movement, environmental movement, women’s movement, protests and riots,Woodstock, mainstream rock from the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix
- Key characteristics: experimental, individualism, free spirited, social cause oriented
- Key members: Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, U.S. President George W. Bush
The second cohort is the one that I belong to (born between 1956 and 1964). We listed our beliefs as follows:
- Memorable events: Watergate, Nixon resigns, the Cold War, lowered drinking age in many states 1970-1976 (followed by raising), the oil embargo, raging inflation, gasoline shortages, Jimmy Carter’s imposition of registration for the draft, punk or new wave from Deborah Harry and techno pop to Annie Lennox and MTV
- Key characteristics: less optimistic, distrust of government, general cynicism
- Key members: Douglas Coupland who initially was called a Gen Xer but now rejects it and Barack Obama who many national observers have recently called a post-Boomer, and more specifically part of Generation Jones
Part of our cynicism I suspect was being the tail end of a group of folks that constituted 40% of the population in 1964 when I was 4. What we found was that when they wanted to start drinking at 18, the country started drinking at 18 (moved back to 21 as their children approached 18). When they began approaching the age where sexual activity is typically reduced, Viagra (and now testosterone) were allowed to be advertised in public and “erectile dysfunction” became a cocktail party conversation starter. Protection of Medicare is suddenly now in vogue.
The oldest “Boomers” are now 65. Although they do not want to be considered old, I am convinced that despite the advances of modern medicine they will suffer the same reduction in reflexes, vision, and hearing that others do as they approach 70. Their livers and kidneys will begin to become just a little less efficient. It may be that just as we found a pill to “combat” erectile dysfunction, we will find one to delay these certainties as well. I suspect not.
So, don’t be surprised if it is suddenly trendy not to drive but to take public transportation. Train travel for long distances (or at least more comfortable airplane seats) will be discovered. Molecular medicine specialists will tailor dosages based on certain parameters that look a lot like normal aging (no geriatricians for this cohort). Musculoskeletal problems such as osteoporosis will be treated with gym memberships paid for out of health care costs. Smart housing will remind you to take your medicine. If you are studying the health care system or considering a career in medicine, pay attention to the problems of old people. Just don’t call them old.