Monday, May 16, 2016

Generational Divides

I was reading the newspaper this morning and saw a review for a book named
Old Age: A Beginner's Guide. there is a book that I should read to know how "getting old" works.  All this time, I thought that I would just catch on to it.  Clearly, not.

Lately, there seems to be a lot of stereotyping and finger pointing at the various generational divides.  The current political campaign isn't helping to alleviate some of those stereotypes when various polls/pundits/people regularly use age related descriptors when describing how different age blocks feel about issues or how they will be voting. Amid all the imagined "whose going to vote for whom" there also is a steady stream of blame on which generation is running things into a ditch.

Because of varying sources and date discrepancies, there seems to be some over-lap.

I am pretty secure in saying that every generation has done some good things  and some  bad things. Even the "Greatest Generation" wasn't 100% great all the time.  Nor was the "Silent Generation" silent. ( be fair, I wasn't born yet so I might be jumping to conclusions on how quiet it was between 1925 and 1945.)

I am part of the Baby Boomers generation.  While collectively, many of my generation like to think nostalgically of the Boomer years in the same vein as TV programs like Leave It To Beaver or  Happy Days, clearly not everything that happened during the 1950s and 1960s was "cool" and "groovy".

If you from the X and Y generations don't be too quick to be pointing your guys aren't off the hook either as far as some missteps. Sure...each generation has some bragging rights, but no generation hasn't had to walk the walk of shame, either. At this point maybe only the Z generation can be left somewhat blame free. As they are often called the Boomlets, they really are so young they haven't had enough time really to cause to much of a global ruckus, have they?  Seriously, a generation that have the names Tweens and much damage could they have done far?

Currently the real blame game seems to be evenly divided between the Millennials and the Boomers because they are the two biggest generational groups in the U.S.  The Millennials actually surpassed the Boomers in size last year with 83.1 million people compared to the Boomers at 75.4 according to the US Census Bureau.  AND as depressing as this is...the Boomer population will be down to 16.6 million by mid-century.  (Fun fact, huh, Boomers?) I was saying...lately I have noticed a lot of articles, books, TV programs and even movies that seem intent on categorizing people into age groups but in "real" life there seems to be no real common denominator within any given age.  What 40, 50, 60 or 70 years of age looks like or acts like,  on one person doesn't seem to look like or act like 40, 50, 60, or 70 years of age on another person.

There seems to be a great divide on how people age. While I am not prepared to go so far as to say the "60 is the new 40", I am willing to say that it's getting more difficult to guess what a person's chronological age might be.  That is especially true,  if we were to buy into the generalizations given to different age groups.  Surely, not all Millennials feel entitled and need a trophy for just showing up NOR are all Boomers resistant to technology and incapable of mastering a smartphone.

As I have talked about here at TAOBC a number of times, a lot of how we think or feel about things is closely tied to our perspective at any given time or circumstance. People's perspectives about what constitutes "old" seems to be quite varied.

For example: a couple of years ago when our grandson was a kindergartner, we were talking to him about what he was going to do when he grew up.  He told us he was going to buy a big house.  When we asked if we could come and live with him, he calmly said no.  "NO? we say. You won't let your grandparents live in your big house?  He answered, "No because you'll be dead."

I, totally understand why he would think that.  I lived with my grandparents at that same age and I thought of them as old.  Now as an adult, I realize my grandmother was around 47 when I was a kindergartner. A couple of years ago when she passed away at 101, she not only could have lived with her granddaughter (me) she could of lived with her great-granddaughter (my daughter). Instead the last couple of years of her life she lived with my uncle who was at the time of her death in his late 60s. I am sure she thought of him as her baby.

While my grandson might think a 30 or 40 year old is OLD and someone in their 60's should probably be getting their affairs in order,  I would think that my grandmother would have thought someone that was 60 as being young.

How people perceive age is really a mixed bag.  Because I teach computer classes to seniors, (I struggle with that word..but am hard pressed to find another word that is in any way better) I find myself fascinated at how people age. There are several 90+ year olds in the class that are amazingly youthful while I have met 60 year olds that appear elderly.  It's hard to separate how much of the perception of someone's chronological age is related to their physical appearance versus there mental and emotional "appearance".

Other than a few absolutes such as the AARP magazine magically showing up in your mailbox when you turn 50, there doesn't seem to be much else that is predictable as far as aging goes. 

Take for example, this month's issue of AARP features Janet Jackson on it's welcome to the Big 5-0 page at the same time she is telling ET that she is in her second trimester with her first baby.  Why wouldn't we be getting confused about what constitutes "old"?

As it is with most things, I am conflicted about where I am as far as aging goes.  I am now into my 60s but I haven't noticed any limitations to anything as it relates to my age.  Last year a 92 year old completed her 16th marathon.  I have never managed to complete a marathon.  It's not related to my age though.

I don't think age should ever be an excuse to not do something but concede that bodies age differently and health issues might impede  people from accomplishing things.  Such a slippery slope though.

I meet with a personal trainer every week and at the same time I am at the gym, an 87 year old is working out with another trainer.  Is he still fit because he is a lucky 87 year old or is he a healthy 87 year old because he is still working out? 

Another person, whom I consider a good friend is 91 and swims every morning.  She is very involved with a lot of activities and seems very youthful.  Is she just genetically programmed to look and feel far younger than 91, or is she youthful in spite of being 91 because she's so active?

OK, so I think I maybe should study up on how to age.  Perhaps, I do need that book. 


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