This year is a milestone for baby boomers (born 1946 – 1964). The youngest of us turns 50. Happy Birthday, baby!
Baby boomers have been described in all sorts of ways – vain, materialistic, greedy, self-centred – and there’ve been some pretty horrible things said about us as well. Some of those descriptions might even be accurate (not for me, of course). But though each generation has its defining characteristics baby boomers are unique, in that we are the first generation who has had to not only cope with huge and rapid technological changes, but also embrace them and incorporate them into our lives – that’s if we wanted to keep our jobs.
The widespread use of computers and the internet has, in the short space of twenty odd years, revolutionised all facets of our lives – our work, recreation, communication, travel – the list goes on. Although our parents have also witnessed rapid technological change during their lives, by the time the use of computers and the internet had become the norm – round about the early to mid 90s – many of their generation had retired from the workforce, so there was no compulsion or in many cases, desire, to embrace the new changes.
I must hastily add, though, that I’ve encountered quite a few in their seventies and eighties who are embracing technology – emailing, Facebooking and surfing the net on their iPads. But baby boomers had to keep up, or get left behind. I recall a friend telling me in the late 1980s that her husband had been threatened with the sack from his job as a salesman because he was refusing to use computers.
And due to a combination of social and economic factors, many of us won’t have the option of retiring in our fifties and sixties, as our parents did. These factors are expounded upon in this excellent article from the Australian newspaper The Age, written in 2011 when the oldest baby boomers, born in 1946, were about to reach the traditional retirement age of 65.
But the sheer fact of the matter is, baby boomers don’t want to retire – and I include myself in this category. To me, retirement sums up an image of lawn bowls and craft groups, slipping inexorably into a twilight of slippers, cardigans and dinner at 5pm.
As social researcher Hugh Mackay puts it in The Age article, ‘what they are talking about is not retirement, but in classic boomer style, they are “refocusing.” That might mean chopping back a bit at paid work, playing a bit more golf, doing a bit of volunteering, but not absolutely stopping work. That would be a sign that you are old.’
Right on, Hugh! Because there’s one thing we boomers won’t admit to and that’s growing old. We’ve stared mortality in the face and pulled the blind down over it. We’re in denial – we’re popping fish oil pills with addict-like fervour, running marathons, contorting ourselves into yoga poses and drinking a glass of wine daily, whether we like it or not. The only way you’ll get us into a retirement village is by forcibly removing us. And due to our super strength because of all the weight-lifting we’ve done at the gym, you’ll have your work cut out for you.
So live it up, junior baby boomers. Fifty is the new forty! As stripper Gypsy Rose Lee said,’ I have everything now I had twenty years ago – except now it’s all lower.’
What are your thoughts? Is retirement on the agenda for you? Or are you refocusing?
Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.