Wednesday, 03 September 2014
Professional Boomers Aging Badly
Did you read that baby boomer who was whining in The New York Times last Sunday about – surprise! - getting old? More particularly, about those damned other people who insist on being younger.
It is not the real-life issues related to aging that bother Michele Willens. It's that she's not the center of attention anymore:
”Friends are dying, joints are aching, and memories are failing,” writes Willens. “There are financial issues, with forced retirement and unemployment, children needing money and possibly a bed, and dependent parents.
“But for many of us, it is a psychological quandary that is causing the most unpleasantness: looking around and suddenly being the oldest.”
Because professional baby boomers have always believed they are more important than anyone else, Willens tells us that getting old is more painful for her age group than others before them.
And then she consults – who else in professional boomer land? - a psychiatrist who is, apparently, a fellow baby boomer eager to encourage Willens' delusion:
”'It’s a huge issue,' says Dr. Anna Fels, a psychiatrist in New York. 'I see so many who are trying to adjust their lives to this new phase, which for some reason none of us really pictured ourselves going through.'
“Why didn’t we?” asks Willens. “We knew that eventually more people around us would be younger rather than older. But it still rankles. The image of a room filled with younger people is the perfect symbol.”
Willens supposes that her generation of old people divide themselves into two categories: those who hang out with younger people (age deniers of one kind) and those who hang out in retirement communities where they are sure to find people even older than they are (age deniers of another kind).
The latter group includes Willens who cannot resist an opportunity to take a smack at the older people she seeks out:
I — as of this moment a fit 65 — do my lifting and stretching at the 92nd Street Y, where they still lament that Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis broke up.
“This is one of the last places I am considered a kid. My 90-year-old aunt accuses me of showing up at her assisted living facility so often because I am far and away the youngest person on the premises.”
Smart woman, that aunt.
For the remainder of her story, Willens perambulates around the edges of her new-found seniority without once getting anywhere near conceiving of the idea that old age might be an engaging time of life with its own merits equal to and at least as interesting as every earlier stage of life.
Instead, she gives us an anecdote about the approval she received from some young college students for being a fan of Sam Cooke, and then quotes a retired former CEO of a local New York cable TV channel who, she supposes, proves her point about how awful it is to be the oldest generation:
“'I used to color my hair, now I don’t,' says Mr. Rodgers, who is serving on some boards. 'Yes, being the youngest person in the room was more exciting and empowering. This is not the same, but it’s the new reality.'”
I would be angry if both of these people and that psychiatrist were not so pathetically incurious and bent on proving how superficial many people believe boomers have always been. Instead, they make me tired.
In fact, Willens et al in this piece are so self-centered, they don't realize there are a lot of us – millions – who are even older than they are. But don't let that get in the way of a professional baby boomer's narcissism.
This Times story came to my attention via Marc Leavitt who blogs at Marc Leavitt's Blog. He was pissed off big time particularly when he realized comments were not allowed on the story. So he took out his ire in an email to me. I'll let him have the last word today:
”Stop whinging about getting old. Did you wake up this morning? Enjoy your coffee? Decide to call a friend?
“Guess what? You're alive. Billions of people aren't. If you have to feel apologetic about your age, and wear that apology on your sleeve, too bad for you. You’re born, you live, and you die. What you do in-between, at every stage, is what counts...
“Old people have done more and learned more than younger people; that’s why wisdom is often associated with age. To paraphrase Gloria Steinem, 'I’m in my mid-seventies, and this is what the mid-seventies look like.'
“Get a life.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: A Fearful Prospect