Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool Saging Conversations: Generation Segregation

Good Idea or Bad Medicine?

Boom is the sound the baby generation makes when it explodes the old Old. TM

Let me say upfront; there is no right answer to this question. At best, you might find the right answer for you.

I am proud to be a baby boomer. While I don’t necessarily broadcast my age, I don’t hide it, either. The postwar babies born between 1946 and 1964 are a unique generation with a generous span of fascinating life experiences. The question is whether we want to spend most of our time with “our own” as our main companions and primary influences.

My husband Tim and I talk regularly about whether we should consider a 55+ active community like Sun City. (We have two of that brand and several others in the greater Sacramento region.) He has some physical limitations, and I have some conditions that nag and potentially could become more than annoyances. If we moved to a mature adult community, it would make our neighbors all close to our own age or older.

Truth is, we relish our privacy and know only a few of our neighbors after living in our home eleven years. My communities stretch way beyond neighborhood geography considering cyber, work, and organizational connections. I can’t say we know any of our neighbors well, although we have a pleasant relationship with those we see regularly, especially our wonderful next-door neighbors. Yet there are potential physical barriers to our current home we love. This knowledge keeps us on the brink of realism about how long we can stay here.

My uncle lived in the family homestead on Long Island past the deaths of his parents and his sisters, who lived with him most of the time. He lingered there until shoveling snow and some of the other heavy work just became too much for him as he rounded 80. A few years ago, he moved to an active senior condo complex not far from his home of over 50 years. It was the best thing he’s ever done! His only regret is that he didn’t do it sooner.

Uncle Mike and his condo-mates are family to one another—they eat, drink, and play together on a frequent basis. There’s always a card game, a birthday to celebrate, an invite for dinner, or some trip they’re planning. Since moving there, Mike has been on cruises to the Mediterranean, Canada and the Caribbean—air and bus trips Las Vegas and the Saratoga, NY races and other “gambler specials.” The way the community cares for each other and its camaraderie are touching. We loved spending Thanksgiving at the condo a few years ago and meeting many of these lively people, not to mention all the amenities of a pool and gym on site.

I am a mind and spirit kind of person. It’s more important to me to be with kindred spirits than to be with a kindred age group. Like mindedness and a broad view from the mountaintop about life is the neighborhood I need to live in. Oddly, that’s often easier to find on the Internet than anywhere because here we connect mind to mind and heart to heart and by like interests. If we’re lucky, we might meet face to face someday. Still, I’m not na├»ve enough to think it’s good to be too homogenous when it comes to friends and family. That can quickly go from kindred spirits to cliquish or clannish—just a step away from exclusionary. I wonder for myself; where is the balance?

Other practical considerations: As we age, we lose friends and family at a faster pace. Tim’s sister and husband live in a 55+ active community where they are beginning to attend one funeral after another. Sometimes, their layers of grief on top of grief are hard to bear. Yet, they also feel solace knowing that whichever one of them goes first, the other will go on in a caring community of support. If for no other reason than the terrible prospect of being the last one standing, I am grateful that several of my close friends are 10-15 years younger than I am, especially since I don’t have children or grandchildren. Theoretically, I won’t outlive all my friends. Still, if I think about it, even the youngest among my close friends is technically a boomer, thanks to the fact that our generation is defined by an 18-year age span.

When I made the decision early this year to
revision my blog, there were many reasons that motivated me. One I may not have emphasized; I was not comfortable with age segregation. It took a quote on Twitter from my cartoonist friends at Perrie Meno-Pudge that finally helped me realize why:

The key to successful aging is to pay as little attention to it as possible. ~Judith Regan

There’s nothing that makes me feel older than talking about aging too much, even in a positive way. There’s nothing that makes me feel younger than diving into life and dealing with the petty annoyances of aging as comical asides and not the real drama.

Bottom line, I don’t want my age to define me. Of course there’s a place for boomer forums, how-to’s and humor, or I wouldn’t be writing this article. Yet, if we truly become what we give energy to, I think I’ll stay away from senior segregation and an age-related focus for now and keep feeding my timeless spirit.

And if a time comes when I don’t have a realistic choice but to live exclusively among the saging set, I’ll make the best of it—and hang out with the most young- at-heart and upbeat boomers in the batch to keep me on my toes!


Cool Saging Conversations is an occasional feature retained from when Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights was geared to a baby boomer audience. When issues arise that impact our generation and I feel compelled to comment, the cool sages watching boomers blow up the old Old will come out. I hope our boomer readers still enjoy seeing them. As ever, your feedback is welcome.

A Special Happy Birthday to my sister, Janet—a regular reader of Hot Flashbacks. I won’t give away her age, but I have to rib her a little and tell you she’s the older sister, even if not by much!


Eileen Williams said...

Talk about young-at-heart and upbeat... there's no one who beats you, my friend.
I relate a lot to the boomer generation but it isn't necessarily an age thing--it's more of a spirit thing. I think we've been a special generation all of our lives, with new approaches to living and viewing the world. Not all of us, certainly, but a large number of boomers were free spirits, experimental, peace loving, tree huggers. Just my kind of people, FOR SURE!

Joyce Mason said...

Good point about the spirit of our generation! I've often felt we have been challenged with coming to terms with some extreme opposites within us. For example, most of us were raised with the conservative values of the '50s, only to come of age in the '60s and '70s, a time of counterculture, revolution, and questioning those values. Each of us have had to find who we are between some extremes of ideology. However, I, too, am your last line, LOL! And thanks for the great compliment about my youthful spirit. I'm going to tell that to my body, Eileen! :)