Chamber News & Notes: Getting old was never on the playlist
September 22, 2018
I grew up in the generation that was never, ever, ever, going to grow old. We were the generation declaring age 30 to be "over the hill" and those "old folks" were never to be trusted.
As with all youth, there's no looking ahead. You live day-by-day thinking youth is eternal and your seat on the merry-go-round secure. We Baby Boomers ruled the world because there were so many of us and went out into the world as soon as we could cut the financial umbilical cord and never looked back.
Well, before we knew it, we too were over 30, but still the "ruling class" as far as population and spending power. Smart marketers tried to make us feel better by stating the new 50 is the new 40, taking 10 years of each decade. We believed it.
The Boomers never thought they would grow hard of hearing, have "fine lines," be myopic, have loose skin, turn gray, be arthritic or suffer the maladies of old age. Age spots? Shudder, shudder! We were becoming our parents! We fought the great fight — believed the skin cream ads — and when they didn't work as promised, flocked to plastic surgeons. Though the surgeons can stave off looking old for a while, it doesn't last. Nothing lasts, for Father Time catches up with you — as we continue to find out!
Even the Beatles were afraid of aging. Remember their prophetic song: "When I'm 64." The lyrics are endearing, penned by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, released in 1967 – the height of the Boomer years. The refrain "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" Today McCartney is 76 and 64 sounds rather young — but considered ancient in 1967.
Statistics show the world population is aging, and with that must come an attitude adjustment to getting older. Even the "older" don't like the old. Millennials don't seem to have this "thing" about 30 being old, for many of them don't start their "adult" lives until well into their 30s.
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Today, Japan has the oldest population in the world with 26.3 percent over 65. Italy, Greece and Germany are not far behind. Much of Europe has a 65+ population — well over 20 percent — whereas the U.S. records 14.9 percent. Florida has the highest percentage of seniors, though "California still holds the record as having the largest actual number of elderly persons, "according to Worldatlas.com. Of the 50 states, Nevada ranks No. 38 at 14.11 percent and Alaska ranking at the bottom with only 9.49 percent over 65 years. Thus, if it's the young you seek, bundle up and head up north to Alaska.
The U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts July 2017 now shows Carson City at 20.1 percent 65 and over with those 18 and under at 20.2 percent, indicating a good balance between the under 18 and over 65. In contrast, Douglas County to the south weighs in at 27.2 percent over 65 and 17.3 percent under 18. Reno has only 13.5 percent over 65 and — thanks to the university — registers 22.1 percent under 18. Most of the population of Nevada is in Las Vegas showing 13.9 percent over 65 and 24 percent 18 and under.
The Population Reference Bureau estimates Americans more than 65 will more than double to over 98 million by 2060. Many of today's older Boomers will be out of the picture by then with the older Millennials and the Gen X'ers holding those spots. In 1950, life expectancy was 68. Today, it's 79 and rising. The "Silent Generation" — born between 1925-45 — is silently exiting with the older Boomers not far behind.
The National Institute on Aging, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, prepared a study on what they consider "a situation without precedent: We soon will have more older people than children and more people at extreme old age than ever before." Whether this is positive or negative depends on your view of aging. Right now, grandparents are still playing a vital role by taking care of the children their offspring are unable to care for keeping them out of foster care, thus these grandkids may grow up to respect their "elders."
Though the deterioration of the body may be evident — until that fabled Fountain of Youth is found-being old is not a disease and those of us with institutional memory can still play an important role in making sure negative history will not be repeated.
The Baby Boomers are still making their mark through volunteerism, spending power, serving on various city boards and commissions to share expertise, and bridging the gap between young and old. As for admitting to aging – nah! They're still not ever going to be old and will continue the good fight until the very end.
The mantra of the Boomers can be found in the words of the great George Bernard Shaw, "We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing."