The generation that invented rock ‘n’ roll isn’t ready for the rocking chair. Baby boomers, who redefined American life by their sheer numbers, now are redefining growing old as the first among them turn 65. The Akron Beacon Journal reports some Ohio senior centers are closing – as much from a lack of participation as a lack of funding – or reshaping traditional offerings. Zumba and ballroom-dance lessons are joining the list of activities, along with the more passive ceramic classes and bingo games.
In Columbus, the Department of Recreation and Parks has offerings for ages “50-plus,” including basketball and softball, line dancing and wine-tasting outings. Assistant Director Terri S. Leist has seen the change: “The shift was progressive… we now have more-physical programs than what we had 40 years ago.”
The centers still host pinochle and whist card games, free hearing evaluations and funeral pre-planning information sessions.
Born from 1946 to 1964, baby boomers benefited from medical advances to get a more healthful start than previous generations. They were immunized against scourges such as polio, told to quit smoking and admonished to watch their diet and exercise. Those who listened are lasting longer. And even if parts such as knees and hips wear out, they now can be replaced.
And while their hair may gray and many have a Golden Buckeye discount card in their wallet, don’t call them “senior citizens” That’s their parents. According to the Pew Research Center, the typical boomer thinks “old” begins at 72, and most feel nine years younger than their chronological age.
According to Pew, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 19 years. By 2030, all 76 million will have passed 65, and baby boomers and those older will make up 18 percent, or nearly a fifth, of the nation’s population. Today, just 13 percent of Americans are older than 65.
Not surprisingly, given the recent recession and the post-war prosperity in which they were reared, Pew last year found that boomers regard their future glumly. Fully 80 percent polled said they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today. Just 60 percent of those 18 to 29 were as pessimistic. But in 1970, when the oldest boomers were in their 20s, the national debt was about $370 billion, today it’s about $14 trillion.