"Old" References a Bummer for Boomers

Posted by: Kathy Harmon on 10/23/2011

I read an interesting newspaper article yesterday about a growing franchise for health clubs with a 50-plus target market.  Finally, I will be able to lift my 10-pound weights, slowly trudge through a 45-minute treadmill routine and grunt repeatedly during a recumbent bike session without having to stare jealously at the size-two chiseled bodies for which Spandex was designed.   What a relief! 

Today, a second article repeatedly quoted one of the Doctors Kane from the University of Minnesota about how different current grandparents are from their own.  It seems that the advances in medical science that cure or relieve many maladies, the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year, the Baby Boomer- initiated exercise and fitness focus begun in the 80s, and the passion to remain young have allowed today’s grandparents to play with, rather than just “watch” their grandchildren. 

I have four children.  I’m a proud Boomer and a grateful grandmother, but I was recently stung by a couple of remarks made by my youngest son that suggested I was getting old.  I can’t even remember what he said--only that I bristled at it. 

I joke about aging on my own terms.  I kid my mother about how awful it must be to have children this old.  But I do not welcome old age.  I haven’t yet come to terms with it.  I love hearing that 60 is the new 40.  That seems about right to me.  I wonder when the time will come that I’ll admit to being old.  

My undergraduate degree is in anthropology and much of our curriculum was in sociology.  Many other cultures revere the older generations, who are considered wise.  Their opinions matter.  I taught a class in South Korea a couple of years ago and I was struck by the power of the oldest student.  I only needed to convince him of the importance of my words for the rest of the class to follow. 

Not so in our country.  We need only look at the way we treat many of our elders to recognize why the Boomers in line behind them aren’t anxious to take their place.  I will fight to always be able to do for myself.  I don’t like having others do for me; never have.  But fighting nature and the aging process is a formidable battle.  Muscles atrophy, skin thins, joints thicken and the multiple bad choices we’ve made in our youth finally blossom in a miasma of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, blocked arteries, worn joints and insomnia.  

But we are a hopeful generation.  We believe that it is never too late.  If we simply create and execute a workable exercise plan, lose a bit of weight and eat healthily going forward, surely medical science will cure death before it hits us. 

We don’t like being old, being called old or being considered old.  We don’t like words like “senior,” “elder,” or “aged.”   Words dictate beliefs.   We are a bright group.  Surely we can find a word thatdescribes us that doesn’t hurt our feelings.  Maybe we should just stick to “Boomer.”  Actions matter, too.  I’m thinking about training for the Chicago Marathon next year.  That will show my kid I’m not old.  But thinking about it is as far as I’ve gotten--or will likely go.


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