What “Active Seniors” Means Now

June 16, 2021

Appeared on Senior Planet

“We hold our dreams and ideals close to our hearts,
where the promises are made to the future generations.” —John Rachel in “A Long Night’s Journey Into Daylight.”

“Did you ever think that 45 years later we’d be making protest signs again?” I asked my husband the other night. He shook his head and handed me a thick marker.

The two of us met in 1969 in college at the height of that era’s anti-war protests. In May of the following year, widespread student strikes against the invasion of Cambodia and the deaths at Kent State led colleges and universities to shut down, and some were forced to graduate students without final exams. That’s how effective this nationwide protest was.

This year, many of us seniors dusted off our activist skills preparing for the presidential election of 2016 and attended actions we learned about through the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. Most of us figured we’d be done with activism after Election Day. We hadn’t anticipated the narrow margin that resulted, even as we saw the wide gulf between the candidates’ positions on major issues. The passions inflamed by these candidates’ vastly different agendas have resulted in a vastly divided nation.

So what now for our generation?

Many Baby Boomers hoped that this election would help reinforce some of our early values — kinder, gentler, more inclusive. But across the country post-election, we’re seeing everything from racial slurs and bullying to actual threats and even the adding of black college students to a group called N*****. Swaths of Americans are living in fear.

If only 20 percent of these reports are true, they represent a challenge to all that our generation, and the many who trailblazed before us, has stood for.

So what now for our generation?

There’s no question that Social Security, Medicare, Affordable Health Care and other programs important to seniors could be at risk, and we need to make sure our elected representatives know our feelings. But what of our youthful ideals?

At a time when we expected to be relaxing after a presidential election, many of us have been reinvigorated by causes we believe in. And we’re finding that those old political action skills are coming back.

Many seniors have chosen to redefine “active senior.” These older Americans are in the thick of political action: signing petitions, calling their elected representatives, donating money to causes they believe in and participating in boycotts and peaceful protests.

What’s motivating us to act now? The knowledge that there’s something enormous at stake: bigger than Medicare, bigger than retirement and bigger than ourselves. What’s at stake is the world we leave behind, whether we have children of our own or not.

It’s a world in which our generation’s ideals and values need to matter: taking care of the environment, peace with other nations, embracing those different from us, helping those less fortunate.

So what now for our generation?

Our generation carried the banner for those ideals all those years ago and now, many of us feel called on to carry it once again, to ensure that the world we leave behind is an inclusive and peaceful one, with a healthier environment and opportunity for all. Registries for Muslims, retracting LGBT rights and overturning Roe vs Wade go against everything many of us believe in and the rights we fought so hard to achieve.

We Baby Boomers stand united with Millenials and Generation X in an unprecedented, widespread movement to ensure our societal ideals remain in place as hallmarks of the American experience. In many cities across the country, women of our generation are taking leadership roles in organizing protests, vigils and political action. We have no learning curve: We’ve been here before.

Men and women of our generation have taken to the streets once more, standing side by side in solidarity with younger generations.

We’re putting our money behind our beliefs, too, donating to groups at risk, such as Planned Parenthood, and groups that can assist in our fight, such as the ACLU. Boycott lists of businesses supporting Donald Trump or doing business with him or his family have spread like wildfire.

With smartphone candle apps instead of wax candles, emails instead of letters and social media posts instead of letters to the editor, we’ve added 21st-century tools to our 20th-century ideals and rolled into action again, not just for ourselves, but for future generations, too.

If you’d like to contact your elected representatives to put your views on the record, find them here:

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