“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength” – Betty Friedan
Having spent all of my life with a disability I have learnt never to take anything for granted. If I accepted every “assumption” that had been thrown in my direction I probably wouldn’t be where I am today. With that said I often find myself making assumptions regarding aging or more accurately I take certain things for granted.
Baby-boomers have entered retirement while redefining aging. Demographically we have more four generation picture than anyone before us. We now live in a time where there are two generations of seniors making it easier for boomers to deny aging. This whole “60 is the new 40” attitude is changing the whole concept of retirement.
Most of the boomers I know still have at least one, in many cases both, parent alive and well. We grew up believing grandparents were “old” people which creates some cognitive dissonance when we are also grandparents. We have different expectations of retirement than our parents do. We still help our parents, support our kids (who are really adults) and wrestle with the reality of being a grandparents ourselves. After all being a grandparent is an admission of age. We are also confronted with a system of retirement support that hasn’t caught up to the needs of boomers.
My grandmother’s generation spend their last days either at home or in a nursing home. That more institutional approach was common to the societal norms of that time and would have been considered “collective care”. Their children, our parents, idea of retirement was focused on a safe and secure environment while still providing a level of independence, “communal care”. Physical needs met but autonomy promoted.
This required a shift in societal thinking from the nursing home approach (care as service) to assisted living facilities (care as business). That is a concept that slowly started to evolve in the 80’s. It was a by-product of the approach to deal with injured Vietnam veterans. The societal norm had shifted to a more independent aspect of life than previous veterans. This was a major shift in the belief systems of an entire generation, the baby-boomers.
Any major shift in belief systems can be very challenging. Today technology and social media is pushing belief systems at a very accelerated pace. Recently I have come to the conclusion that the biggest challenge facing baby-boomers and retirement is not the aging process but the threat to their belief system. We all have tools that help us adjust ourselves to the “age related” issues.
I have friends that use a cart more than they use to to continue their golfing hobby or have added “grab bars” in the shower to help with balance. These are natural transitions aimed at maintaining physical safety but do nothing to alleviate a belief imbalance. How flexible are your beliefs? Continue reading