Retired, Not Dead

I thought you were retired,” is something I hear occasionally from friends and acquaintances. Sometimes I think they are thinking, but not saying, “you still alive?”

Let me indulge myself a bit here, for “retirement” is just another word with little meaning in my real life, as I suspect for a lot of baby boomers.

Baby boomers are, demographically speaking, those born in the U. S. from 1946-1964. 76 million were born. 11 million of your cohort passed away by 2012, leaving about 65 million of you today. But immigrants have restored your numbers to about 76 million, which represents about a quarter of the total population.

As of 2014, you boomers spanned the age bracket of 50-68. Some of you are already collecting Social Security and have moved into the Byzantine world of Medicare. This can be mystifying.

Just the other day I received a letter stating that I had been “discontinued” from something or another. What was going on? Have I have been discontinued from the human race, banished to the outer fringes? Is my insurance still valid if I go to my doctor for new eye glasses? What about a hearing aid? Do you know how much those cost if you pay?!

Maybe I can get the VA to pay. They’re nice people and the president-elect likes veterans. He’s appointed about half a dozen generals to his new administration. Got to get on the right side of Washington as the swamp is drained.

I am, BTW, not a baby boomer. I was born during World War II, not after it. My dad was in the First World War, not the Second.

Since I’m into statistics, here’s another one: about sixty-eight percent of Boomers are still working, or in the “labor force” in their jargon, and that includes those of you in the Armed Forces. Thank you for your service, BTW.

“And as the Boomers get older,” my source observed, “the demographics of the population changes. Projections of the entire older population (which includes the pre-baby-boom cohorts born before 1946, like me) suggest that 71.4 million people will be age 65 or older in 2029. This means that the elderly ages 65 and older will make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2029, up from almost 14 percent in 2012.” The bottom line is we are getting older as a people.

To make ends meet, many Boomers have to continue “working” after reaching “retirement” age, which can be any age according to the formula you apply. By the way the whole concept of “retirement” is new in the history of humankind.

Before the nineteenth century, we all continued “working” and usually living with family, the older members mentoring the younger ones, and the younger ones taking care of the older ones as needed. Then the industrial age and the post-industrial age (lots of different names for this era) changed the work habits of people. You weren’t needed in the factories and offices after a certain age, for a lot of reasons, and so were “retired,” your place taken by—at least in theory–newer, brighter, and better trained workers and employees. The nomenclature varies, but includes white collar, blue collar, and I suppose no collar workers.

Today, a lot of us in the pre-Boomer and Boomer population either have to work or like to work. For men, work defines us. Sorry girls (right there you know I’m a sexist by my nomenclature), but that’s nature. I know today both men and women “work.” My two daughters are very successful professionals, each with two children that really put demands on their lives.

One daughter is a doctor, another a business executive, but I suspect their roles as mother is either more important, or, at the very least, equally important to their “work” as doctor and vice president.

We live in a complicated world. It seems to me, however, that I have not reached the age of shuffleboard and bingo yet. I am right between, in age, the new president of Peru, age 78 and just elected last June (Pedro Pablo Kucynski, or PPK for the spelling challenged) and our president-elect, age 70.

C’mon Boomers, follow the Donald, PPK, and millions of others. We have mountains of experience, much to gain, and so much to give as both leaders and followers.

The Apostle James wrote in a slightly different context, but the message is the same, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)

Published as “Retired, a Word That Means Little in My Life,” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Dec. 14, 2017

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