The “Baby Boomers” Will Not Go Quietly

Somewhere this week I heard the first of the “Baby Boomer” generation became eligible for Social Security and Medicare. I don’t know about other “Baby Boomers,” but I certainly don’t feel like I’m ready to curl up and fade away.

This generation has been through a lot. We were the ones who fought the War in Vietnam. We are the ones who danced during the “Summer of Love.” And we are the ones who responded to John F. Kenney’s “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” and populated the Peace Corps. It was during our lifetime that the challenge of space travel was taken up and we watched transfixed as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. We are the ones who fought for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights and the ones who championed Gay Rights.

We were the ones who took to heart “don’t trust anyone over thirty” and now we are approaching 66. Don’t expect us to go quietly.

I firmly believe in the concept of “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” And that applies to everything from physical activity to the brain. I also believe in the concept “it is never too late.”

My grandfather “retired” when he was in his sixties. But he never “quit.” Even though he closed his medical practice and stayed at home (which I think drove my grandmother crazy), he never really did stop practicing medicine. For years after the practice was closed he would see a few of his long-time patients at the house. And his brain never stopped. He had a couple of hobbies. He would spend hours working on his stamp collection. (I know this drove Grandma crazy.) I don’t know how many volumes of stamps he had, but there were binders of them. He also never stopped his subscription to National Geographic. He kept his mind busy keeping up with the new medical innovations, his stamps, and his reading. In that way, I intend to be like my grandfather.

Even though I have not set foot in a classroom as a teacher for the last seven years, I still keep up on what is going on in the educational world. I know what is being taught in our schools today and the innovations that are taking place. I have been around long enough to see patterns reemerging, and I can point them out to the youngsters who are just now entering the field. And, when I finish my MFA I plan to return to the classroom as a teacher, this time at the college level.

And this brings me to the concept of “it’s never too late.” I should have got that master’s degree 30 years ago. But time, distance, marriage, divorce, and general living interfered. At age 59 I returned to school as a graduate student. It is now time for me to do those things I didn’t have time to do when I was scrambling to make a living.

Another advantage of getting older is that I can now say things that might have cost me my job in earlier years. I can speak out loudly on social issues that have been with us for years but, because I was a teacher, I could not say them loudly. I can now shout it out when I think school administrators are making fools of themselves and ruining the educational opportunities for our kids. I can speak out on abortion and gay rights like I could not do as a teacher. I can no longer be told “be quiet or find another job.”

It is also time for us to do all those things we put off for years. I don’t care if you have put off organizing all those photographs you took for 30 years or now decide it is time to cross-stitch or crochet. It is not too late…ever. One of the most precious gifts I ever received was from a great-grandmother who was still making quilts at the age of 92. I was only eight at the time, but I kept that quilt until it was time to pass it on to the next generation. Yes, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will appreciate what you do for them. And if you can’t quilt or sew, you can always write. You are unique and your life story is something your whole family will enjoy. Even if there are some things you are not proud of, it is important they know about them and know that you are human, too.

Neither is it too late to go back to school for those of us who didn’t finish what we once started. My idol is Mable Rose who, in her 80’s, became the only member of her family to complete a high school diploma and who went on to finish a college degree. There are classes especially designed for older citizens who wish to continue learning. All you have to do is check out the local high school or college.

Yes, many of us became eligible for Medicare and Social Security this week, but we certainly did not become eligible for stagnation. Get out there and do!

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