Hey! Where’d All the Seniors Go?


by Doug Carpenter

I love Baby Boomers. I’d love them even if I weren’t one myself. I especially like the part about being one that allows me to make pithy observations about my generation that would easily get an equally candid non-Boomer’s butt sued off.

Not me, of course. As both a Boomer and a writer, I can always invoke the “literary license/no malice intended” defense. (Good thing, too. You know how litigious we Boomers can be. Heck, we practically invented the class action lawsuit.)

Anyway, there I was, minding my own business (…something I should be pretty good at considering how notoriously self-absorbed my generation is), when it hit me. Who better to chronicle, dissect and otherwise profit from Boomerhood than me, a card-carrying member of that intriguing demographic?

So when I was asked to contribute a column to an equally intriguing new publication called After 50, it sounded like a timely opportunity. A chance to discuss issues of interest to the members of my generation… a generation, by the way, defined by little more than the fact that we all just happen to have been born between 1946 and 1964.

Now, I can almost hear some of you doing the math and thinking “Let’s see. The paper is called After 50. And if the Baby Boom started in ’46, that would make the oldest Boomers about…” That’s right. 58. Not exactly prime senior citizen material, is it?

Well, I guarantee that you won’t get any argument from Boomers there. Because in spite of those sobering “It’s time to join AARP” letters that arrive so amazingly close to our 50th birthdays (…How do they know? It’s like they’re watching us.), ask any of us if we consider ourselves senior citizens and brace yourself for impact.

Because thanks to Baby Boomers’ healthy lifestyles… and our even healthier talent for self-delusion, there is – and this is official – no longer any such thing as a “senior citizen.” If this development comes as surprise to any of you, you obviously haven’t been paying very close attention for the last, oh, 50 years or so.

If you had, you’d know that if there’s one thing Boomers are good at, it’s changing things to suit ourselves. Just look at what we did to America once we got our hands on it.

We rewrote the rules for everything from political change and pop culture to environ-mental activism and gender roles. Given that cavalier attitude toward tradition, what makes you think we’d have any reservations about reinventing the aging process?

Of course, it’s not like we didn’t have help. You 60/70/80-plusers share some of the credit (…blame?) too. Think back to the way you reacted to the Boomers in their heyday.

A lot of that younger generation’s behavior shocked you, didn’t it? No “groovy” or “right on” for you. No, sir. You were unabashedly not “with it” …whatever “it” was.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. (And please – don’t tell anyone I told you this. If the other Boomers find out I squealed, they’ll ban me from the Boomer clubhouse for life.)

The truth be told, you were totally entitled to be as appalled by our hijinks as we were by… well… anyone over 30. The fact is, we Boomers ultimately found out what it was like being in your “sensible” shoes when our own kids started wearing their hair in fluorescent purple spikes and piercing anything they could reach. Who knew?

But like they say, “What goes around comes around,” right? And now that our generation has discovered that “hip replacement” comes right after “hippie” in the 50-plus dictionary, we have no choice but to do what we do so well: change the rules.

The good news is that, in the spirit of the proud – and sometimes arrogant – idealism of our youth, we’re not going to be selfish about this. Just like we fought racism and sexism in the ’60s, doing away with seniorism is not a “Boomers-only” benefit.

Just like we’re going to take a “thanks anyway” pass on the aging thing, you don’t have to be “seniors” anymore either if you don’t want to. Whether you were born in… say… 1945 and just missed the Boomer boat or had already logged enough grown-up years by then to wonder what was wrong with us “kids,” just say the word and we’ll swear you in as an honorary Baby Boomer.

It’s a good deal. No dues. No meetings. O.K. Maybe an occasional rally, just to keep up appearances. And we’ll even post your bail if you get busted by the pigs. (That was “hippie” for police. Don’t worry. It’ll be in the handbook.)

All you have to do is place your hand on this column and repeat after me. “I may be over 50, but man… I’m way too cool to be old.”

Can you dig it? Far out.

© 2004 Doug Carpenter

Longtime WNY writer, critic and Boomerologist Doug Carpenter says that if he’s forced to get old, he’s taking the rest of us with him. Feel free to tell him what you love or hate about life “After 50” at everyboomer @adelphia.net.

The On-Line Edition of After 50 Newspaper for Western New York's Young @ Heart