Sunday, January 17, 2010

The real baby-boomers

I was surprised to learn a few years ago what qualifies as a baby-boomer. I knew that I, having been born one year before the end of World War II, did not technically qualify. However, it has continued to puzzle me how an entire generation of twenty years, starting with 1945, can be considered in the same catch phrase. Obviously, demographics have nothing to do with it, although would-be statisticians constantly like to lump them together for such diverse considerations as health insurance and consumer trends. In reality, I have a lot more in common with those who were born right after the war, than they do with the forty-somethings at the tail end of their so-called “generation.” When we talk about the aging baby-boomers, we can’t possibly be talking about them.

So, who are the real baby-boomers? In my book, it’s those born in the last year or two of the war through those born in the following decade. The real baby boomers were born from 1943-1953. We grew up watching “Howdy Doody” and “Ozzie and Harriet,” not “Captain Kangaroo” and “Sesame Street.” We experienced the dawn of rock and roll, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation and the sexual liberation that followed – together. We shouldn’t be considered as a whole generation, but as a group born during a certain decade that shared those experiences. It would mean a whole lot more demographically.

How is it that this is on my mind at this time? I turned 65 this year and sought the help of our experts in Social Security and Medicare at the Yellow Springs Senior Center. Caroline Mullin, the social worker who was advising me, noted how different it was dealing with those who had turned 65 in 2009 than it had been in the past. That’s because you are encountering the first of the baby-boomers, I told her. She agreed.

How are we different? We are more demanding, more conscious of our rights. We are younger in our outlook and, as a whole, healthier. We look different. We are hipper. And, just so you don’t think that I am implying that we are better, probably a bit sloppier both in our appearance and in our way of handling things. At least my father always felt that way about us.

And, speaking of Dad… I was still an infant when he returned from his service, an event of which I have no recollection. My two sisters were born in the following four years. Our experiences growing up were essentially the same. How can they be baby-boomers and not me? It defies logic in the same way that someone who is turning 45 this year is considered as the progeny of service men returning home from a war that ended some 65 years ago. And it’s just not fair. I’m tired of telling people I was born just before the baby-boom. The real baby-boomers have already started turning 65 and I am one of them.

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