Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reaction to "Will the Boomers Be Any Different?" by Isabel Nicholson

As a researcher at Global Action on Aging, I spend a lot of time learning about the "hard stuff:" the political, economic, and health issues that pertain to the world's aging population. However, in my research I often come across the more subtle issues, such as the cultural trends of the aging and differences between the older generations.

Last week I read this New York Times article that discusses some of the more subtle issues within the aging population and thought some of the points would be great to discuss here. The author, Paula Span, writes of the US Depression era 80+ year olds, and the differences between how they are aging and how the baby boomers will age in the next 20 years.

She asks, "In 20 or so years, when we baby boomers enter the ranks of the “old-old” ourselves, will we be any different?" For her, the answer is yes. Her "boomer" generation is one that has lived on personal gratification and will be dramatically less resistant to the idea of paying for assisted care and moving to retirement communities in order to make the transition into old age more comfortable.

But, she writes, "We’re all speculating, because the fact is that as a society and as individuals, we’re facing unprecedented longevity, and nobody quite knows how these changes will play out. Perhaps we’ll be just as unwilling to acknowledge infirmity, just as stubborn about defying our children’s entreaties."

As some one in her 20s with baby-boomer parents in their 60s, I cannot yet tell what they will be like as they enter their old age. At this point, they're focused on enjoying their upcoming retirement. Maybe in the future they'll resist my pleas to go into assisted care, or maybe they'll indulge in all of the old-age resources and comforts they have access to.

I ask all readers, young, "booming," and older people alike-
what do you think? To the younger- are you starting to see these issues arise with your parents as they enter retirement age? To the boomers- what decisions have you made (or have yet to make) about your old age and the possibility of assisted living? And if you are in the throws of old age- what differences do you see between your generation and the one after?


  1. Well, my age is in between that of you and your parents. In the year 2040, I will be 77 years old. For those of my generation (and I can only speak on behalf of Americans), I believe we will want to remain active as long as possible. We will want to work longer (and, frankly, may need to work longer), although probably on a flexible or part time basis. We will expect services - public transport if we are no longer driving. We will expect community centers and educational institutions to provide opportunities for ongoing learning. We will expect a wide range of housing options. I highly doubt that we will want to live with our adult children. I was an elder law and estate planning attorney for twenty years. I witnessed attitudes with my 'younger' clients. They saw no reason to leave large inheritances for their adult children, as did my older clients who lived through the Great Depression and felt almost obligated to leave every possible penny to their children. I would have to agree that we will be more than willing to spend our money on our own care, an attitude vastly different from my older clients who wanted me to show them how to legally 'hide their money' from nursing homes. !! Jill Adkins

  2. Very much enjoying the GAA blog and present theme and prior posts; to share one more e-thought, I do believe that now so many are connecting (networking through computers which promotes connecting and communications in general), older agers can be far more social, less isolated, in wondrous new places on many dimensions ... and perhaps the next big evolutionary change-state may come with colonization of other planets. Further comments? thanks for this vibrant forum.

    Dr. Linda D. Misek-Falkoff,
    * Respectful Interfaces * and World Education Fellowship.