So, we aren't called 'Baby Boomers' anymore. If you've been
around for half a century or so, 'baby' just doesn't cut it. We are
'Boomers' and we have pretty much had it our way our entire lives.
Love us or hate us, we have been hard to ignore.
Now, we are qualifying for Social Security at somewhere between
7,000 and 10,000 people a day. That's a lot of candles on birthday
cakes. Or, more likely, it is a lot of birthday cakes without
candles or with only a single candle. For while we have not been
modest about much, we appear to be pretty bashful about getting
older. It is no coincidence that cosmetic surgery became the major
industry it is about the same time our faces started to wrinkle and
our butts started to sag.
We are the first generation to want to skateboard with our
grandchildren. We have transformed riding a Harley from an act of
rebellion to a status symbol for accountants and aging weekend
warriors. Stand back, grandpa is about to peel out...
To say we are not aging gracefully is about as much of an
understatement as can be made in that few words. While we
aren't forever young, we are making a good run at being perpetually
immature. And that is too bad because to be able to grow older is a
blessing and it endows us with gifts to share.
After all, how are the youth of today going to learn about aging
if we don't teach them? Who else is there to impart the lessons of
dignity and patience that come with the accumulation of years? We
are time-travelers leading the way into the unknown. In all of
history, there have never been so many old people alive at one
time. We are truly going "where no man has gone before." No
woman either, incidentally.
Teddy Roosevelt once said that it falls to each generation to
face a special task. It doesn't matter whose fault it is; they must
face it and succeed. It is their debt to those Americans who have
gone before them and their responsibility to those generations who
will come after them.
What if the Boomers' challenge is to show the nation how to age
successfully? To grow old in a way that brings value to everyone.
To secure for subsequent generations the privilege of some
well-earned years of rest and repose before the grave. In this
time, when the very concept of retirement for working people is
being called into question, maybe it is our burden to protect this
right for our children and their children.
There is much today to suggest that benefits for the aging come
at the expense of the young. But how can this be if all people are
aging? We who are older are the canaries in the coalmine. We are
not a drag on the economy; we are a stabilizing force. We are not
just enjoying the social safety net, we are a vital part of
So, I beseech my fellow Boomers to embrace our years as
accomplishments. Wear wrinkles proudly, they mark our endurance and
they proclaim our victory against time. Do not blush at greying
hair; wear it proudly. It is a mark of our distinction and proof of
the tests we have passed. And, oh yes, be careful on those
Aging in place, it doesn't happen by accident but it does happen
to all of us, in spite of ourselves.
Scott Funk is Vermont's leading Aging in Place
advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of
concern to retirees and their families. He can be reached at