Aging boomers are young at heart and here to stay

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Susan Reimer | the Baltimore Sun
Baby boomers turn 60 this year, but our cheerful spin on this ominous development is that 60 is the new 40.

We are doing what we have always done best: creating a new world order. In this one, we are not old.

Something like 78 million of us were born between 1946 and 1965, and the leading edge includes President Clinton, President George W. Bush, Sally Field and Sylvester Stallone.

This watershed year is the opportunity for another broad-brush portrait of our generation. Although there is a difference of almost 20 years between the oldest and the youngest of us, we continue to be described by our sameness.

Some of us grew up with Mickey Mouse and some with Star Wars. Some of us went to the factories and some went to college. Some went to Vietnam and some had friends die protesting the war.

Some of us were just children when we witnessed the assassination of our idealistic young leaders. Others of us came of age under President Reagan.

We are more different than we are alike except in one way: We refuse to get old.

Retailers and marketers, who have always bowed and scraped to our whims, are tiptoeing around us now, afraid to offend us by mentioning our age. Even AARP eschews the word “seniors.”

We don’t identify with our parents at this age — they seemed so much older when they were 60. Most of them were retired while many of us are starting a new career or a different job.

We think we are healthier and better-looking than our age might suggest. We see ourselves as 15 years younger than we are. Botox and Viagra help, and we’re not ashamed to use them.

Clothing stores such as Chico’s and its lingerie sister store, Soma, which cater to women of a certain waistline, gambled on the fact that we still think of ourselves as sexy, and won.

And I don’t think we will ever give up our blue jeans.

Technology is helping us stay young. We are into computers and cell phones and TiVo and downloads and Google and iPods. We are OK with all the changes. The electronic earth has been shifting under us since the 1980s. We’re used to it.

We hate the name “grandma” as much as we do “senior,” preferring Lulu or Meemaw or Tita. And we’d rather do something with our grandkids, such as take a trip to the city or visit a museum, than stitch curtains for their bedrooms.

Yoga has replaced step aerobics, cycling has replaced jogging, doubles tennis may have replaced pickup basketball. But we are not ready to give up the physical life, and are more tuned into health and wellness than our parents with their cigarettes and scotch and red-meat diets.

The result is, the oldest members of the boomer generation are going to live another 20 years, easily. Our younger cohorts, who will reach the age of 41 this year, haven’t even reached life’s halfway point.

Boomers. We have been the pig moving through the python, changing every institution as we go by the sheer force of our numbers. The world must be thinking it will never be rid of us. Certainly we don’t think we are going anyplace.

Susan Reimer is a columnist at The (Baltimore) Sun, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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