Will Boomer Generation Reinvent Aging?

Aging Today, November/December 2004 | Go to article overview

Will Boomer Generation Reinvent Aging?


[Aging boomers] have the potential to become a social resource of unprecedented proportions by contributing to the civic life of their communities. This possibility offers a way to reframe public discussion about the implications of the aging baby boom, shifting the focus from frailty and dependency long associated with old age to an image of active, productive aging that comes with improved health and longevity. seen in this light, the generation that has challenged social conventions throughout earlier stages of life now stands poised to redefine life's later stages and possibly transform the nation in the process.

This hopeful statement is at the heart of a recent report titled Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement, from the Harvard School of Public Health and MetLife Foundation Initiative on Retirement and Civic Engagement. The book-length study observes that boomers, despite the activism of the 19605, are less engaged than their parents' generation by every measure: "They vote less, read newspapers less and are less apt to join churches or civic organizations."

Unlike the facile condemnations of boomers as a selfish generation that are increasingly seen in media reports, the authors of Reinventing Aging note the greater ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity of boomers compared with the more homogeneous Greatest Generation. The authors emphasize that, rather than indicating passivity and indifference, boomer experience simply does not reflect the classic indicators of civic and social engagement. Compared with their forebears, the report says, boomers have been exposed to a new technological world, a broader array of ideas and lifestyles than was available in the past, and social and political trends that valued nonconformity. …

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