It’s official. There is no one in the U.S. older than 60 who matters anymore. In a period of just three months, Newsweek has published its second cover story on baby boomers, this time titled “Sex and the Single Boomer.”
In tandem with the recently-published half dozen books on the joys of elder sex, the story reports that boomers are going at it like bunny rabbits. And, ever in need of reassuring themselves they are the first to do anything, they’ve ditched the three-date rule:
"At our age," says [51-year-old Diane] Barna, "if sex presents itself, if you're comfortable with your partner, why wait for three dates? Just go for it."
Mainstream media has never reported a social phenomenon for which they can't find a downside, but this time there is a serious consequence to all this coupling:
“Though single boomers are having sex regularly, only 39 percent invariably use protection, according to the AARP study. ‘To me, those are pretty alarming figures,’ says Linda Fisher, AARP's research director…The number of new HIV infections among older women is rising rapidly: between 1998 and 2000, women's share of AIDS cases among those 50 and older nearly doubled, from 8.9 percent to 15 percent.”
Although I count many boomers among my friends and acquaintances, I have lost all patience with them as a group. Anyone who’s gotten to age 50 without knowing the importance of preventing transmission of HIV is probably still wondering where their kids came from. These people still aren’t grownups.
In keeping with their extended adolescence it seems, according to Newsweek, women boomers have exhausted the sexual stamina of their male counterparts and are going for younger guys. In a remarkably shallow example of painting an entire gender with one brush, 49-year-old Kim Cattrall who, as Samantha, flaunted her boy toy on the HBO television series, Sex in the City, has adopted that fictional preference in real life:
“After playing a sexually adventurous character, Cattrall found it hard to have a relationship with a man her own age because she thought they were trying to compete with Samantha. A younger man, she says, doesn't feel that need to outdo her. ‘The thing I really enjoy,’ she says, ‘is that I can show him my world and what I think about something. He's not closed down.’”
Come on, you boomer men reading this - speak up for yourselves. There was a time when women complained about men with this kind of attitude toward women their age.
But love - even companionship - is hard enough to find, so far be it from me to object to it whatever disparate ages the partners may be. But, says Newsweek few of these boomers are looking for either in their approaching dotage:
“In a recent AARP study, only 14 percent of women said their most important reason for dating was to find someone to live with or marry, compared with 22 percent of men.”
Although it is dangerous to take seriously such lightweight media stories as this, boomers will be boomers, I suspect, desperately grabbing at remnants of youth unto death. What I most object to is the media’s and researchers’ apparent belief that anyone older than the baby boomers is dead. For decades, old age was considered an extension of adulthood and not worthy of study. Now, even though average life expectancy in the U.S. is about 77, those 17-plus years of life - yes, active life in most cases - beyond the oldest boomers are ignored.
Pre-boomers are not the same as boomers. Our behavior, needs and desires are different and if researchers and reporters had a lick of sense, they’d look at the 60-plus generations too if for no other reason than to figure out how to deal socially, culturally and economically with those 78 million boomers when they reach elderhood.
Ageism is alive and well - it’s just shifted forward a decade or so.