Part of the mystique of being a boomer age senior is that we tend to believe Bob Dylan’s lyric that we will somehow manage to remain ‘forever young’. Our demographic has had certain advantages that have marked our progress through life. As a whole we are better educated because college was affordable back then. We have benefited from the knowledge about smoking, exercise and other health habits to at least make a conscious decision about lifestyle choices.
Another choice boomers seem to be making is to generally steer clear of traditional senior centers. They are still working, they have their own individual activities, health clubs, book clubs and more vigorous exercise routines. Pickle ball and senior water volleyball are two examples of transitional offerings at Y’s and community centers. What younger boomers want does not usually meet the reality of what older seniors need.
Many boomers avoid the senior centers, complaining about the food or see the physical activities as not demanding enough. There is an ageism among those who are aging that results in not wanting to be around those who are more evidently in continuous decline. Boomers tend to feel they ‘are not there yet.’ The village to village movement now has an average age of 78 which means younger seniors do not see the benefit of consolidating into local organizations to provide services to help keep them in their homes. Are boomers aging out there into their own cocoons?
Hopefully medical innovations for better health will lead to all seniors being active longer. There is a collective strong incentive to avoid the nursing home. As always we want to keep redefining ourselves as we become older. My concern is that all of this creates a certain inevitable isolation outside of your chosen group.
Those who volunteer with older seniors see the future and realize that yes, somehow we are all in this together. Forbes Magazine had an interesting article recently that points to the bigger picture. It explains the concept of QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Years) and altruism. In short it suggests that living healthier longer and contributing longer should raise the standard of life for everyone.
QALY can also be shared and distributed. For each year that we remain healthy, our acts and our contributions — anything from giving birth to paying taxes to work on scientific advances — could raise their QALY of other people all around the world.*
You can look to these extra years of wellness as a gift or a well earned prize. The point is that ultimately we are all in this together somehow building our own future. Better to think of it as a cause worthy of a contribution.