I just read an op-ed on how boomers are being ignored; how TV, commercials, movies and music are all geared toward the younger generations. We older folk are left out. The article exhorted our country, if that is possible, to remember our numbers, our power, and our pocketbooks before dismissing us. I tend to agree.
The message behind the article was an implicit recognition of one of the challenges of being an aging boomer. After a lifetime of being special, of both being on the leading edge and having the numbers to make that edge meaningful, we are suddenly showing up as part of the history that shaped our society. We are seen as part of our culture’s past instead of demonstrating the power and prestige to set the stage for the future.
Are we special?
What a shocking reframe. We have moved from trend-setter to observer, from creating to catching up. We still have numbers and dollars and we are still demanding attention, but in a very different way.
I watch as millennials are immersed in designing the latest technology to support our aging generation. They know that this longevity market will not only be a stimulus for creative design, but will be profitable as well. From Alexa providing information, to robots tending to our pills; from video diagnostics to self-driving cars, technology will make our lives easier in the future.
Yet, this is not how I thought my aging would play out. I didn’t think of myself as the OBJECT of creative talent, but instead, the subject. I thought I would always be the new kid on the block with the latest ideas and the energy to implement them. I thought I would be sought after as credible source of expertise, instead of a repository of wisdom, implying the years of experience behind.
During the younger, tired moments, after a busy day managing a large staff and planning a new project, when I looked forward to the rocking chair and the grandchildren, I did have a smile on my face. I did believe that this phase of life would be filled with contentment and peace. Yet, as I approach 70, I am still in search of that peace. After years of working with my mind, thriving on exhilarating creative connections, a rocking chair just doesn’t quite do it for me.
Where has all the power gone?
I can’t blame culture or society for putting me out to pasture. I can’t blame the fact that there are so many millennials who are shaping the future. The reality is that our boomer generation, just like the millennials of today, took over our parents’ generation and ran with the opportunities. We were quite full of ourselves as we pushed forward with our protests and rock and roll music which disturbed the older folk to no end. This process of passing the torch of shaping the world to come has been going on forever.
Where does this leave our generation, with enough energy and power in numbers to still make a difference, just not so much of a difference? Today we can still produce a ripple, just not a wave. Can we be satisfied with that ripple?
Power of past, strength in numbers
It’s hard. I believe that is one reason why so many people of our boomer generation keep working into their 70’s. They may be tired, but they still believe that can have an impact. And for those who do step back from their prior work life, seeking a new focus of gratification becomes crucial. Some land in politics, others at the museum; still others start a new business.
We do have a lot of wisdom, something for which we can be grateful. We have contributed a lot over the years at work, at home and in our communities, of which we can be proud. All of that is with us, not just behind us.
Recognize the strength
As we have leaned into each new phase of our lives over the years, we grieved what we had lost, yet learned what was necessary and adjusted to the new demands. We thrived on the challenges thrown in our direction and made the most of them. As we approached our first job with excitement and trepidation, managed a business re-org with fear and self-respect, or stepped out of a relationship with a combination of sadness, anger and relief, we marched onward to a new beat. So too today.
Let go of the trash and keep the treasures
Our challenge today as boomers is to find our new rhythm, to enjoy our new dance, to appreciate the salsa instead of the tango. Having let go of what we don’t need and valuing all that we carry forward to our new lives, we can bask in the joy of a new vision. What a gift to leave all that behind and start, in so many ways, fresh. We can let go of all that “trash” and keep only what we choose. I like to think of it as a socio-emotional yard sale.
Appreciate the alternatives
Forget the stress and keep the wisdom; leave behind the work day politics and choose those people with whom we want to connect. Today we have the opportunity to pick and choose our options and don’t need to feel trapped. We are smart enough and have enough experience and energy to manage that transition.
Grab the clay and shape the future
I can honestly say that this life is not how I envisioned my aging; but how would I have known? My parents’ lives were so different; even those 20 years my senior entered this phase of life under different circumstances. I only have my experiences to shape my expectations and that has limited my vision. For once, books don’t seem to hold the answer.
Now that I am here, however, I can set the stage to shape my own way of being. I can look in the mirror and not just reflect on what is, but energetically create MY future.
Just think of the power in the numbers of all us boomers doing just that! Maybe that will generate a bit more than a ripple.