In David Cravit’s book The New Old, he demonstrates the baby boomers’ simple act of refusing to age in the same old way—detachment, decline, death.
That is in turn creating a revolution in everything from health, to finance, to travel, to employment, to housing, to education, to culture, and of course, to beauty, fashion and yes, sex.
But what is it really all about? I’m a boomer coming to the pivotal age of 65 in this coming year, so you could say I am smack dab in the middle of the aging tsunami.
But what is it that many of us are wanting who are surfing this wave?
The term “elder” can refer to anyone who has had enough life experience to have something to offer those behind them.
In a sense, elders are “experts on life.” Their exact expertise may be dependent on the nature of their experience, but in one way or another it involves what they learned from their experience and how they interpret it, and that is as important to being an elder as the experience itself.
It is also important to be able to communicate that learning to others.
Is this a different mindset than the generation that has gone before us?
Are boomers wanting to live their last stage of life searching for a deeper meaning to this gift of existence in a more active way that involves continuing to take risks and not accepting the status quo?
In previous generations, “retirement” meant disengaging or withdrawing from active life.
It also usually meant living on a fixed income, and even when that income was more than adequate, absolute dollar spending tended to decrease.
Boomers aren’t so attached to holding on to their money.
Our attitude is more that we are willing to risk everything in the search for living more fully.
This may mean different things to different people, but the desire to continue to experience life is there.
Defining what that really means to each person on an individual level is a unique urging but for the predominance of boomers—but it is there if they pause to explore it within their own psyche.
According to a survey by the American Express Financial Advisors, 85 per cent of boomers view their so-called “retirement” as a time for learning and self-discovery, 65 per cent for re-inventing oneself and 51 per cent for a new beginning.
Cravit states in his book: “In BoomerAging, the theme here is obvious, proactive pursuit, not passive withdrawal.”
What I find interesting about myself and the many people I talk to who respond to this column is that there is a strong desire to alter the energy of the very active verb of pursuit, which is defined as ”an effort to secure or attain.”
We have been really good at attaining in our middle years of life, leaving no stone unturned in our accumulation of goods, adventures and experiences.
But has this made us feel truly secure—free from fear, protected, confident, as the dictionary describes it?
As we boomers age and face things we can’t control—the changing of our bodies, the inability to multi-task in a way that we so proudly wore like a badge of achievement, the downsizing of our spending capacity, the loss of our parents and unexpected deaths of friends who leave us too soon—life takes on new meaning for us boomers.
We are stopped in our tracks and forced in a way to see life differently, which leads us to search for the answers to such questions as:
• What has all the pursuit been for?
• Who am I really?
• What do I have to offer, because we like to contribute, that will make a difference to my children, to society, to what I leave behind?
Many want a shift in consciousness to a new place of retreat rather than pursuit, but not in the way that the previous generation approached it.
Rather, a time of inner reflection calls to many of us and if we listen, a path to greater courage, compassion and connection awaits where the true meaning of security lies.
It is active. It is deliberate. It is a path to a fuller life that will make the gift of longevity that many boomers have the pleasure of experiencing worthwhile, because we can help to make the world a better place.
Mahatma Gandhi describes this opportunity in an enlightening way: “You must be the change you want to see in the world. As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world—that is the myth of the atomic age—as in being able to remake ourselves.
“If you change yourself, you will change your world. If you change how you think then you will change how you feel and what actions you take. And so the world around you will change.
“Not only because you are now viewing your environment through new lenses of thoughts and emotions, but also because the change within can allow you to take action in ways you wouldn’t have—or maybe even have thought about —while stuck in your old thought patterns.
“And the problem with changing your outer world without changing yourself is that you will still be you when you reach that change you have strived for. You will still have your flaws, anger, negativity, self-sabotaging tendencies etc., intact.”
So perhaps retirement now just has a new job description. It is the work of developing wisdom and it starts with you.