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The Wisdom of Our Elders

What happens when a python swallows a pig? The snake opens its jaws and begins the long process of moving the tasty obstruction all the way through the tube. For several decades, the boomer generation has been described as “the pig in the python” while the supersized group makes its way through American institutions.

Schools, clubs, and workplaces which were comfortable for previous generations had to expand and adapt to accommodate the new kids. Big crowds always generate their own buzz, and in the case of boomers, the clamor has lasted for more than 50 years.

But there is much to be learned from people who followed a different set of rules in pre-boom America. New York Times columnist David L. Brooks asked older people to look back on their lives and to share some of the important lessons they’ve learned. His project, The Life Reports, solicited short essays a few years ago from people born in the 1920s and 1930s.

He found that most people gave themselves higher grades for their professional accomplishments than for their private lives. But people who started family businesses seemed especially happy. Another factor that led to lifelong satisfaction was the willingness to take risks. Far more seniors regret the risks they did not take than the ones they did.

The happiest people divided their history into chapters or phases, each with its own requirements and successes. This mental habit can turn closed doors into open windows and helps focus energy towards future accomplishments. Unhappy people thought of themselves as corks bobbing up and down on the ocean of life, helpless to control their own fate. A continual emphasis on what has been lost through the decades (a favorite job, security in one’s profession, the empty nest) leaves every chapter unfinished.

For the past fifty years, our society has celebrated the outsider and the rebel. But Brooks reports that the “most miserable” of his correspondents were always rebelling against the world and ended up not achieving much except sour memories. His advice is to work within groups or institutions to try to accomplish meaningful change.

Boomers have been faulted for rejecting many old-fashioned values, for disrupting social conventions, and for ignoring the positive contributions made by previous generations. It’s worth remembering that people we consider “elderly” today, the generation just a decade or two ahead of us, also lived during a time of unpredictable financial cycles and dramatic social changes. It’s nice to have their wisdom to guide us into the future.

What would you like to tell the younger baby boomers, those who were born in the 1960s and came of age in the eighties? Many of them have the time and the inclination to shift their priorities in life. Email your thoughts to: bookreviews  at berlin dot com.  [Sorry to be cryptic — I’m trying to minimize spam. There are no spaces in the previous address, and you have to put in the “at” circle symbol yourself]. And thank you for sharing your wisdom.

“Through the Eyes of Our Elders” is long-term care consultant Diana Waugh’s topic at the Boomers Resource Network Caregiver symposium to be held at Sunset House, 4020 Indian Road in Toledo on Saturday, March 8th, 2014. Registration and complimentary continental breakfast begin at 9:30 a.m. Presentations on various topics related to caregiving and advance planning will run from 10 am to noon in the Community Room. There is no charge to attend the symposium. For more information, please contact Janet Sulewski at 419-806-9826.

-Copyright Cynthia Poe 2014

Here Comes the Boom

Older. Wiser. Boomer. Does anyone think about the baby boom generation in those terms now that the oldest are senior citizens? Far more common are terms like arrogant, hedonistic, and self-absorbed. Boomers “never forsook many of the habits of teenagerdom,” writes BBC journalist Jeremy Paxton, who describes British boomers as “not merely the luckiest but also the most selfish generation in history.”

But many boomers feel proud of their accomplishments — especially those who are giving financial help to both their own parents and their adult children, simultaneously.

The oldest members of the baby boom turn 68 this year. The youngest, who were born in 1964, considered to be the end of the boom, will celebrate their 50th birthdays. In between are approximately 72 million Americans who face a unique set of challenges: how to make highly personalized individual choices while moving inside a large herd; how to remain economically productive while crafting a retirement lifestyle, and how to shape their legacy.

By size alone, the boomer generation merits attention from businesses. Every day this year, and for the next decade and a half, eight thousand people across America will qualify for senior services. Every day, eight thousand householders will think about downsizing, moving to different climates, buying travel packages, shopping for the grandkids.
Businesses that serve the senior market in traditional ways expect to see massive growth in a predictable customer base. But just how predictable will those new clients be?

The oldest of the boomers are old enough to retire, and a large number of them have the financial resources to walk away from the world of work. But many of them don’t want to. According to Bill Rickman, a Perrysburg franchise consultant with FranNet, the fastest-growing group of new franchise owners are boomer grandparents who hope to leave a small business  — and a job with a future — to their grandchildren.

By their sheer numbers, boomers bring economic changes along with them. Similar economic changes are described in detail on the website Some of these changes can be disruptive to the ordinary way of doing business. But new opportunities arise whenever a group as large as the boomers begins requesting (some might say “demanding”) new and unusual choices for their golden years.

As businesses and agencies gear up to meet the new demand, it’s worth noting that the younger members of the baby boom have little in common with those who came of age during the 1950s.

People at the tail end of the boom graduated from high school just when U.S. industries began shedding jobs, closing off career paths that had been available to thousands of boomers in previous years. The youngest members, sometimes called “Generation Jones,” have been catching the bust end of every boom-and-bust cycle since the 1970s.

This monthly column is a dedicated space for examining the concerns of boomers and of businesses who want to market services or products to this sizable customer base.
We want to know how boomers are navigating these later chapters in their lives. If you’d like to tell your story, or ask a question, or propose a topic for future columns, please email me at bookreviews  at berlin do t com.  [Sorry to be cryptic — I’m trying to minimize spam. There are no spaces in the previous address, and you have to put in the “at” circle symbol yourself].
I look forward to hearing from all Mature Living readers.

Anyone looking for a personal connection should drop in for lunch with the Boomers Resource Network, an informal Toledo organization which meets at Uncle John’s restaurant on Secor Road every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Come learn about business opportunities, resources for education, financial advice, wellness, and community improvement. It’s a lively group with wide-ranging discussions.
-Copyright Cynthia Poe 2013

Christopher Gillcrist

Guest Speaker for Thursday, September 11, 2014 – National Museum of the Great Lakes Education Center – “In Toledo – A Freighter Trip”  by Christopher Gillcrist, Director.