Once Baby Boomers, now {marginalized} seniors

March 4, 2013

Maybe I was set up for that estate sale last weekend.

Maybe, it started with this:

in the mail

My husband exhibited more than a little glee as he circled that phrase above and pointed out that he hadn’t gotten this mail addressed to a senior citizen, it was addressed to ME.

Then, we got this email from our insurance agent:

I called you today about setting up an appointment
 to discuss your Long Term Care Insurance needs. 

Long term care??? Already??? Why is she calling us now??

And then, hubby showed me an ad in the newspaper for Boomer Lifestyle expo at a nearby county’s fairgrounds. Sponsored by the Neptune Society, among others. He laughed. I was taken aback.

Online, a fellow boomer turned me on to this idiot, below, who is advising people how to market to Baby Boomers. He looks like he’s about 12 years old and is so condescending about our cohort that I hate to even suggest you click on this link and give him a view. Except maybe to leave a comment that he’s wrong.

Did he forget what generation invented computers? 

All this in one week. It was a lot to take in.

At some point, we Baby Boomers crossed a line into senior citizenship. I don’t know how it happened, because I don’t feel any different than I did at 50. And yet, like our elders before us, we’ve begun being marginalized by younger age groups in society.

“I think we should embrace getting old,” said a woman at a recent gathering. When she’s told she doesn’t look her age, she corrects them. “I do,” she says. “I’m old.” I like her defiant attitude toward aging. It’s one that flies in the face of the surgical interventions being sold to women as the cure for aging. Of course, they’re not such much cures for aging as they are attempts to avoid the marginalization that comes with it.

Still, aging takes some getting used to.

Some people found 30 difficult, and some 40 or 50.  Not me. This transition to senior citizenship is by far the biggest adjustment I’ve faced in aging. It seems like I just went along, year by year, decade by decade, unaware of my age or how it was perceived. And then, BAM! I’m suddenly being treated like I’m one step from the grave.

It’s astounding, really. We Boomers went from the most significant cohort in the nation to the target market for Depends, seemingly overnight.

And I’m not sure whether I should think about it or put it out of my mind.

So, I’m asking: have you had an aha moment like that? What’s it feel like?

26 comments on “Once Baby Boomers, now {marginalized} seniors
  1. Deb says:

    OMG, it could almost be a SNL parody of a sleezy salesman. The only thing he didn’t do is called us old geezers. Maybe that’s in his next video.

  2. Susan Cooper says:

    Yep, I feel this. I was an executive that was laid off as a result of the company being sold. That in and of itself wasn’t an issue all C lebels were laid off. When I went in search of a new position, that’s when I realized how marginalized I was. I had to much experience/knowledge, I was expensive and I was viewed as superfluous, old if you will. It was infuriating. They wanted to pick my brain but not pay me for it. I finally realized it was time to move on to something else. Sigh! It hasn’t been easy, but I’m figuring it out as I go. 🙂

  3. Deb, you’re right. Oh, the arrogance of youth! Susan, that story give me chills…I have no doubt something wonderful is coming for you.

  4. Janie Emaus says:

    The only thing I’m excited about is getting Medicare and saving some money every month.
    But really, where did all those years go?

  5. Doctor Don says:

    I shall NOT click on the video; ain’t nobody got time for dat! I am in career transition myself, with plenty of education and experience that Carol is familiar with. What keeps me upbeat at this “old age” is volunteering in the Middle School, and being emcee at their charity Valentine’s Day dance. Can’t say that I knew 90% of the songs, but I had a blast acting like a big kid with my Rotary friends!

  6. Yes, I do, Dr. Don, yes I do know.

  7. I turn 60 this July…so I will be like Scarlett for now and think about this tomorrow!!

  8. OMG, so true – this kid has no idea. But lately I have noticed that we are going from baby boomers to seniors. Someone needs to tell “them” we don’t take kindly to that moniker. I have a social club called Wild Boomer Women with over 400 members in the Phoenix area. Recently, someone stood up to say somthing and forgot and said “I’m having a senior moment”. I stopped her and said “at Wild Boomer Women we don’t have senior moments. If you want to call it an acid flashback, that’s acceptable.” I don’t know about you, but that’s kind of where my friends and I come from – ok, well I never actually did acid but you get the point:)

  9. Queen Sue says:

    OMG you are so right – that child is way off. I agree that lately we have gone from being baby boomers to seniors and I think “they” should know we don’t take too well to that. I have a social club called Wild Boomer Women that has over 400 members in the Phoenix area – the first time someone stood up to tell a story and said “I’m having a senior moment”, I responded with “stop right there – at Wild Boomer Women we don’t have senior moments. If you want to call it an acid flashback, that’s acceptable!” I think that sums it up for my friends – how about yours?

  10. Ethan Farber says:

    Hi, I’m one of those Millenials. I’m going to tell you Boomers how it is.

    First off, let me tell you, not all fools die young, and price does not equal value. Merely because you people earned absurd (and unjustified) salaries in an overheated economy, pumped up by fiat money, real estate bubbles and mortgages out the wazoo, does not mean you ever had the value you may believe yourselves to have, and certainly not now.

    If you Boomers drop dead – this applies to any and all of you – you know what will happen to the world? It will keep on trucking. Your vaunted “experience” in whatever field you work in, is that of smooth sailing in easier times, getting along by puffing your chest out back when people cared.

    Simply put, we Millennials don’t need you, for any other purpose than getting the few Boomer holdouts to take us seriously. We spend considerable time and effort conspiring amongst ourselves to manipulate you Boomers into being stalking horses for our careers and goals, because that’s all you are, a bunch of empty suits.

    When you Boomers leave the office to go play golf, or pursue any of your other equally inane leisure activities, we’re able to REALLY get some work done, without you Boomers getting in the way by imposing your “relevance” on everyone else. Usually this means bypassing or replacing your obsolete organizational processes (e.g., endless meetings, bureaucracy, obsolete technology, etc) and just getting things done.

    Now, about you Boomers getting old. Let me tell you, the problem with you Boomers now being old people, is entirely one-sided, and it’s on your end. Millennials respect the old. They respect wisdom. Millenials love technological gadgets, but they also love old books, antiques, “retro-gaming”; etc. They’ve grown up being pushed the latest fad and they’re tired of it. You doubt this, go visit your local thrift shop or flea market or used electronics or game store. You know, those stores you think you’re too good to shop at. The clientele is mostly Millenials. In their minds, old things are exciting, novel, tested.

    Older Millenials remember the Greatest Generation as their grandparents. A surprising number of Millenials love to sit and listen to them talk about the old days. The American cultural notion that the world began in 1953 is really unique to the Boomers – Millenials are fascinated by distant times and places. You can see that in the video games they play – usually set in exotic places (real or otherwise), typically drawing heavily from history and myth. Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, or Valkyrie Profile come to mind.

    And we don’t give a rat’s behind about Vietnam or the Civil Rights Movement. Most of you never fought in Vietnam, fewer of you protested it, and those who did one or the other still see the war (for or against) in romantic, unrealistic terms – your “experience” has not guided you to objectivity. And you certainly didn’t PAY for it (that’s us Millenials, paying down your 50-year-old compound interest).

    The Civil Rights Movement was a sideshow. Many Boomers made their lives blockbusting, few married outside their race; Boomers (of all political persuasions) are well known for their intense xenophobia; they invented the Gated Community; they hated busing (again, set up by the Greatest) and strove to destroy it even while their kids shrug at crossing the tracks into the “bad side of town” . The CRA of 1963 was signed into law by LBJ – a Greatest Gen; the Clean Air Act was passed in the same year. Since the Boomers took power (Carter/Reagan/Bush/Clinton), decisive legislation and changes in lifestyle have been replaced by the SUV and “not-me” syndrome. All those progressive ideas the Boomers talk about – their generation represented nothing so much as a lacuna in the process, a generation of historical bystanders.

    Perhaps this is an outgrowth of the character of the generation. Boomers, as a culture, are not imaginative. Their parents were largely classically educated and worldly (see: classic Star Trek & Twilight Zone, shows more popular amongst Millennials, or at least better understood by them, than the original youth audience). Boomers love their mass-produced kitsch, their ugly McMansions and cheap Chinese-made furniture. They take this vision to society as well: everything is black-versus-white and the status quo is never wrong.

    So our problem with you Boomers is not that you’re old (you are). It’s that you lack the positive qualities that come with age. Instead of wisdom, you have stubbornness. Instead of dignity, you have pomposity. Instead of temperance, you are grasping. The Boomer inability to handle getting older is not a desire “to keep kicking”. It is a desire to hold off growing up until the last possible second.

    To say it plain, your “experience” strutting around in your suit and tie is not worth $100k a year or whatever you think it is. That is entitlement speaking, nothing more, nothing less. Most of us Millenials live on tips or near-minimum wage and don’t want to hear it.

    For your collective benefit, I’ll end on a positive note. You want Millenials’ respect? Act your age. Drop the pompous “well I have been in this field X years” routine. (That’s when we call you “dude”; it frankly baffles us how a generation that doesn’t want to get old is offended at being treated like they haven’t). Stop trying to talk like young people or affect an interest in our pursuits (you don’t understand them and don’t want to). Stop trying to tell us how you’re not old (you can’t stop becoming seniors any more than we can stop being teenagers, the world doesn’t stop for you).

    Be simple, straightforward, pragmatic, accessible, willing to sacrifice and willing to be proven wrong. You would be surprised how much respect from young people that will garner.

    Hell, you might even get another job.

    • admin says:

      Dude, you should do something about that anger. Clearly, you’ve been attracting some awful people and have an agenda seriously unrelated to my post. Any time someone purports to tell someone else “the way it is,” well, there this: Opinions are like butts, everyone has one. And that’s all it is. And of course, you’re entitled to yours, as far from our reality as it is. Hope things get better for you. And that when you age, you don’t become one of those awful people you seem to know. Now THAT would be irony.

    • Julie the Wife says:

      He’s an angry elf.

      And I don’t think we read the same post. I’m a Gen X and now I’m officially nervous for our future run by self-important, entitled, me-centric Millenials.

      Great post, Carol!

  11. Molly campbell says:

    This angry Millenial makes very valid points. Try to look past the aggression. Remember that our generation argued heatedly with our parents. And this generation faces the one percent and is the first generation to be less better off in terms of economic future than their parents’ generation. PEACE.

  12. Lori Jo Vest says:

    Geez, Ethan Barber, who peed in your oatmeal? You’re so full of you-you-you and negativity, that even if you had any valid criticism of the boomer generation, we couldn’t find it amongst your pompous rant. I work with people that are 15 and 20 years younger than me and we treat each other with respect and courtesy. No need for me to brag and no need for them to look down on me. That’s how it typically works. Not sure where you’re living, but it’s not the same planet as the rest of us.

  13. Now you see why we are also killing ourselves at a record rate: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-us.html?_r=1&
    No rewards for our wealth of experience and wisdom, it’s straight to the Depends ads for us! Has it occurred to anyone the fate we will all face if we should be lucky enough to live that long?

    • Rocque says:

      Interesting find of suicide by prescription pain killers. It is people of all ages as a friend of mine in his mid 30’s seriously injured his back in the military. The government would not give him enough “pension” for his disability to live on. He could not keep a job due to being too healthy for a wheel chair but not healthy enough to stand for long periods of time.

      I gave him a place to stay for 4 years. He went to school online, got a bachelor’s and 2 master’s degrees, and accumulated a huge student load debt. He felt for sure he would get a job. I basically supported him during those times because I felt he had something worthwhile to contribute and he would.

      Once he got the degrees, the jobs were not there. He had not had a job in 4 years. Only free lance photography that paid rarely and minimally.

      The meds were free. The VA took care of him. He tried to find work. Could not find work, but always had enough meds. He moved back home to another start because he met a girl or reconnected with an old girlfriend, I am not really sure. He died from overdosing. It is a real shame.

      I did my best to help another person to get a restart on their life after doing what they felt was right failed them. This person did not take any drugs other than the gift of the government or use any alcohol. They had high blood pressure but could not afford the medication, only the pain medication was free. They were younger than me, but not able to do the things I could. Walking, kayaking, surfing, working in the yard. Their physical age was probably late 80’s.

      There is no guarantee for so many younger people that they will make it to the leaky bladder age. My grandmother always said that growing old was “hell”. I always thought it was a “gift”, a blessing. My life was enriched by having her around.

      I tried to have a solution for one person. I failed at the one. Ideas spring up and movements start up. I still dream of change, and that I can view this nation as a beacon of hope for future generations that are born here, and want to work for the American Dream.

  14. Rocque says:

    I am going to come back and read this again but later. It is great that the Millenials will stop by and read this blog and take the time to write a well thought out comment. I can not say I agree with it all, but I certainly do agree with some of it. That is why I have to come back and read it.
    Lets see most baby boomers were raised by parents who sacrificed so much during either a depression, world war or both.
    Can people today in the USA even grasp ration cards, and turning in all your aluminum or other metals for the war effort? Yes we have had wars, it seems there is always a war. However, WW2 saw so many sacrifices.
    There was no post traumatic stress back then. You sucked it up and went on with your life. Maybe you got drunk too often and beat up your wife and kids (the baby boomers). Maybe you never discussed the war because the horrors were too horrible (before the word horriffic—I dislike that word).

    The baby boomers were supposed to be sheltered, but several were not. Too many fried their brains seeking one high after another. Others went from protesting the establishment to being just as bad as not worse than those they protested against.

    Every generation should bring about change. If I were a millenial I would be mad, too. They are seeing a world were college is pushed as the only way to have success and prosperity, and believe the dream along with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, only to find that the educational system in the USA is failing them.

    We farm jobs out to countries that work for a lot less, or for some reason they have the skills we fail to give our young people in the USA.

    If the Baby Boomers have one more fight in them, one more cause to go for, it should be to change the USA so that the newer generations have a future where they can have jobs. Instead of settling for what the new generations think of the Baby Boomers (it is difficult to argue with them–most sold out for the almighty dollar), why not fight for them and not against them.

    We should leave a better legacy than taking a great Nation and turning it into one of entitlements, hand outs, joblessness, and reduced standards of living.

    I wrote more than I planned on writing but might still be back.

    • Julie the Wife says:

      Wow. I LOVE this reply. When you strip away the hostility and aggression, the valid points are much easier to see and mull over. It’s a thinker.

      • Rocque says:

        The Baby Boomers proved that when you have an idea and act on it you can make changes. They saw the voting age lowered so that those who were old enough to die for a country in a war, were also adult enough to vote for the leaders.

        They saw politicians decide not to run for reelection due to protests of their policies gain wide enough acceptance to open their eyes.

        They saw one man’s goal for a nation to have a man on the moon within 8 years reached within that time limit.

        They saw politicians rather than military leaders turn the Viet Nam war into a tragedy. They saw movies stars betray the military by visiting POW camps and supporting those who held our military there in horrible conditions.

        They had expressions such as, “Do Not Trust Anyone Over 30!” What happened?

        They saw men with vision assassinated by men with no vision. They saw talented musicians with so much promise over dose and end their lives before they reached 30.

        They listened to pop culture heroes tell them to tune in, turn on, and drop out of society or something similar. The pop culture heroes became rich, millionaires, and they did not drop out. They held benefit concerts for causes they believed in as their record sales guaranteed them entrance into the world of the rich and famous. What happened to those who listened and dropped out? Are they the ones who are now homeless? Are they the ones who are labeled crazy without a place to live? Are they the ones who had babies addicted to drugs, or maybe their kids had babies addicted to drugs.

        Every generation has changes that are good or bad. Every generation has to pick up where future generations left off. History repeats. As much as we think we are the ones who are smart enough to be able to keep history from repeating, it seems that for one reason or another it repeats.
        I got carried away again. Oops.

  15. Karen says:

    Well, join the club, Carol. We wrote a somewhat lighthearted post asking people not to hate us because we’re baby boomers, and since that post went up last September (!) it’s become a rant-magnet.

    I do understand some of what the Millenials and GenX writers are saying, in part because I once felt the exact same way about the generations that preceded ours: they seemed to have all the power, all the money, all the control, and the ability to judge and find my generation wanting.

    Over the years, though, I’ve begun to feel that judging anyone by an attribute over which they have no control–their gender, race, or age–is a very ugly thing. To my mind, “kill all the boomers” resonates just a little too strongly with “kill all the Jews” or “kill all the women.” I don’t think the people who post these rants mean that–I just think they haven’t really thought through the implications of their rage-filled missives.

    I’d far rather work with like-minded people to achieve goals from which we can all benefit, than listen to the out-of-control whining of people who don’t know me, don’t know my family, don’t know my circumstances…but feel entitled to judge all of the above.

  16. Sheryl says:

    I’m with you! I couldn’t help but overhear this conversation recently in Starbucks, by 2 employees:

    her; Susan got fired
    him: She DID?
    him; Yeah, she’s suing for age discrimination
    her: Well, she IS old, you know.

  17. Chris Bradshaw says:

    Ethan has a lot of great points. Living in and amongst the boomers (as one) I found it hard many times to understand the preferences and choices being made by my peer group. Especially loved the comment about gated communities and McMansions! Who’s going to buy all of those? There’s a big chance they’ll end up being split into communal living spaces for seniors – just like those big victorian mansions were turned into triplexes and apartments for decades until gentrification rebuilt what was left. Those of us (like many reading this blog) that keep up our skills and interests and are interesting…. people and jobs will want to keep us around. Those of us that dislike change, have no appreciation for the new world our grandkids are coming into… well…

  18. Ethan Farber says:

    I want to respond to some of the responses.

    First off, I notice several posters point out that I am “angry,” as if this is a strike against me or what I have to say. The viewpoint that “anyone who has a problem, is the problem” or that anger is inherently wrong, problematic or unjustified is the premise of the sheltered mind. This way of thinking is characteristic of Boomers – the desire to evade not only unpleasant situations but even unpleasant feelings.

    Second, responding to some of Rocque’s remarks. I made the observation that the Boomers are a generation of bystanders, and Rocque’s advocacy for them drives home this point. Most of the things he says the Boomers “saw”, were just that, things they “saw”, but did not create or participate in.

    The example that stands out to me is that the Boomers “saw” the US put a man on the moon within eight years of promising to do so. The thing is, the Apollo program was not cheap; while in progress, the project cost 4% of the federal budget, or a quarter of a percent of the nation’s GDP. More fundamentally, the program demanded an unforgiving STEM-based educational system and high salaries and strong social incentives for technical experts.

    Boomers, the “bystander” generation, didn’t like that – when the Boomers took power, they voted to axe NASA and ultimately all but disband the department, because they simply didn’t like making such sacrifices, they didn’t like paying taxes to support programs like NASA or STEM education, and they didn’t like their paper-pushing careers being stymied by the supremacy of technical experts over managers.

    I don’t agree with Rocque’s observations regarding politicians, either. LBJ, for example, did turn the Vietnam War into a tragedy. Nixon was indeed a crook and also at least half mad. But the fact of the matter is that for all their flaws, men like Nixon and LBJ and Ike and Truman had depth of character unseen in any modern politician – a depth of character and thoughtful nature that Boomers seem to find repugnant. Whether you like Clinton or not, the fact is, no one voted for him because they thought he was clever or a man of integrity, people voted for him because he seemed approachable; same goes for Bush. Boomers of all political persuasions loathed Gore and Hilary because they were perceived as talky and aloof, qualities that could have just as easily defined Nixon or Ike.

    Nixon and LBJ also possessed other important gifts. Both supported the Civil Rights movement despite its questionable popularity at the time. Both were bitter fighters with looming dark sides. But in the final analysis, both were “do-ers” – people willing to do what it took to get things done. This is a virtue entirely lost on Boomers, who seem to fear decisiveness in any form.

    Which brings me to my third observation. One of the most defining characteristics of Boomers is a bizarre sort of one-sided nihilism. Boomers don’t like seriousness. They like pseudopathos, tough talk, but they loathe discussions that end in one viewpoint prevailing. In Greatest Gen life as well as art, the capacity to talk problems through, fiercely disagreeing but ultimately submitting to the stronger argument, was fundamental to their generational modus operandi.

    Boomers don’t like that – a Boomer thinks that a good discussion is one that he can walk away from, secure in whatever he believed before. This basic attitude is reflected in everything from the Boomer appetite for pain pills to the Balkanization of art, media and society under the Boomers, into little islets of unreality. It’s reflected in discussions like this one, that seem to be about nothing so much as Boomer nihilism.

    Take Karen for example. She uses the adjective “lighthearted” as a superlative and not a pejorative – evading serious self-reflection is a good thing! She says “I do understand…”; implied in such a remark is the arrogant belief that one’s personal experience is at least equal to anyone else’s; so anyone who disagrees about how it is is automatically wrong. Objectively, Karen does not understand; objectively, she has had an easy life, and of course in comes the nihilistic shill:

    “I’d far rather work with like-minded people to achieve goals from which we can all benefit, than listen to the out-of-control whining of people who don’t know me, don’t know my family, don’t know my circumstances…but feel entitled to judge all of the above.”

    Karen’s quote excellently captures what is wrong with the Boomer mentality. “Like-minded people”. This is a roundabout way of saying that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. Preferring to work with “like-minded people” for “mutual benefit” is an inherently immoral and narcissistic lifestyle. What is correct, is working with people who are NOT like you, not for the mutual benefit of your clique (see my prior remarks about McMansions and Gated Communities), but for the benefit of society as a whole. That inability to benefit from alternative points of view has been the hallmark of the Boomer society; the Balkanization of American thought.

    Karen talks about how people “do not know her”, and “judge”. Yet she posts here on a thread about a particular kind of people, who are here to wax philosophical about their common characteristics and shared experience. That is the “one-sided nihilism” I made reference to. You like generalizations, but only flattering ones; everything has to be all ups no downs. Such a mentality is inherently the product of an entitled mind – you are used to the sun always shining, so it had better keep shining.

    The problem is, we do know you. If you are a Boomer of any social class except the very, very rich, you had it uniformly better in life than you would had you been of any other generation but of the same social class. That is objective, if unsettling, fact.

    Which brings us to the crux of the Millenial’s gripe. The Boomers had charmed lives, and their inability to rise to the level of their own good fortune is what makes them so despised.

  19. No body likes being marginalized and its time baby boomers must lead the fight against this marginilization. Younger people seldom realize that they would also be sitting in the shoes of the senior citizens in future. Lets age gracefully and with pride. Apart from giving computers to the world, this is the best gift boomers can give.

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