Can’t Stop It

I just watched part of a television special called Boomers, hosted by Tom Brokaw. It is very interesting to see my generation played back to me in documentary form. I look at those gray-haired fiftysomethings talking about stuff I remember. Wait a minute! They’re old. How can they be talking about stuff I remember? Did I just read about those events, feelings and songs or was I actually there for some of it?

Boomers, who now range in age from 46 to 64, were and are obsessed with youth. Roger Daltry screamed the lead lyric in a famous Who song: “hope I die before I get old.” Daltry is 66 years old now. I wonder if he still sings that lyric. The definition of “old” has changed, but how much?

Youth-obsession isn’t exclusive to Boomers. I am surrounded by co-workers in their 20s and 30s. It keeps me young. My boss is 45, her boss is 36, their top boss is in his low 40s. This is the first time in history that the work place is populated by employees from three generations. Boomers still run the world, but we’re a vulnerable minority where I work so I keep my age to myself and rely on my youthful family genetics to keep people from thinking of me when they make their frequent unjustified assumptions based on age.

When it comes to race, religion and human connection, Gen X and Y are open and accepting in ways Boomers helped make possible. But age discrimination is rampant in those post-Boomer generations and it is probably the fault of Boomers. Maybe it’s payback for us being so smug about being in charge. Each generation grows to take over from the previous one, but Boomers aren’t letting go just yet. We’re too young!!

One takeaway from the TV special is this: most Boomers aren’t prepared for job loss or retirement. Thinking about it is a source of stress. Boomers who keep up with trends and technology stand a better chance of surviving aging in a down economy, but the future is still uncharted territory. Gen Xers don’t especially have role models for this stuff so they’re up next as players in the ‘stressful future’ game.

And it all comes down to dealing with our own mortality. We can’t stop aging but we usually don’t think much about it till we’re in the middle of it. Midlife is a bitch, ain’t it? Boomers aren’t/weren’t prepared for it and I don’t think X and Y are either. The ‘happy talk’ publications designed to convince Boomers that midlife is a time for renewal, for finally doing what we always wanted to do, miss the reality mark. What they say is true, but you need plenty of ‘buy-in’ from the people who are willing to pay you to do what you always wanted to do. That is a much larger challenge. Those folks are either Boomers protecting their own fragile situation or Xers claiming new territory.

I am usually an optimist about things like this and ultimately I always figure out solutions to problems, mine and other people’s. But mixed in with some of the happy feelings I got from watching Boomers tonight are sparks of dread.

The good news is there are plenty of resources and opportunities. It takes patience, a quality Boomers have in much greater quantity than the next generations.