Getting on is about recognizing, and acknowledging, your inner old man or inner old woman. All of us who are lucky enough to have lived long enough get old will have to do this.
It’s interesting to note that in 1960 the population of the U.S. was 177 million. In the 1960s, over 70 million baby boomers became teenagers, meaning that almost half the population of the U.S. consisted of boomers. No wonder this group, now retiring, thinks it is so important: when the boomers came of age, almost ever other person in the country was one of them.
Though it’s a head-scratcher to think that this statistic could be true, I look back on my own neighborhood. I was born in 1949 in Fort Collins. My father was president of Heath Engineering on Highway 14, east of Fort Collins in a quonset building that became the Sundance Saloon (I don’t know what it is now because I hardly recognize anything in the stretch highway these days).
We lived in town but I traveled with my dad to the country in the four states area selling and representing the farm equipment that Heath manufactured. It seemed to me that everyone on our block, and everyone in all the towns we traveled to, and everyone in the country were we delivered farm equipment had lots of kids. It was very unusual to see a family of only two kids. Single, or only, children were truly rare. Most common was the family of five. When you look back on the 1950s families, it is easy to see how this demographic of boomers exploded.
All those kids grew up and represent about a third of the U.S. population today and perhaps as much as half the “adult” population. Boomers now have an enviable choice of other generations to look to for how to approach their golden years. On one hand, Boomers can look to the younger generations who are involved with computers and growing networks of social media. On the other hand, they can look to those few remaining folks who lived through the Great Depression and World War II.
You often hear Boomers talk about computers and social media in two very different ways. Some speak of computers in the same tone that they might use when talking about skunks or rodents. I’ve heard more than one crusty old curmudgeon speak of a child or friend who “does something with computers” as if to suggest that this person is totally lost to the Dark Side. Others have embraced the computer revolution and social media and are willing consumers and participants in all of it.
Whatever a person may think of computers and social media, is it clear that these revolutions are here to stay and we really don’t know what will happen as these technologies mature into nanobots doing surgery, computer chips driving cars, and even teleportation as seen on Star Trek. Boomers will see great inventions coming along to help them live longer, and this can’t be all bad for an aging demographic.
But the truly fortunate thing for Boomers is that they not only have the younger generation bring on the computer revolution, they have the Greatest Generation still alive and in the neighborhood. This is partly why getting to know your inner old man or inner old woman can be a pleasure, bringing together the youthful technologies in the presence of older wisdoms.
Our older people — by that I mean those in the 80s and 90s — have a lot to offer that can’t be found on a computer screen or a mobile device, even though the most recent mobile phones have 1.8 million times more precessing power than the command module that first sent a human to the moon. ❖