No Speed Limit

10 11 2010

Many years ago, back when the federal government decreed we needed to save gas by dropping the national speed limit to 55mph, rocker Sammy Hagar crooned one of his memorable songs. “I Can’t Drive 55” still stands today as testimony not to just a long-lapsed speed limit, but as a metaphor of a generation determined to live life at the fastest until we all drop dead.

Which is why I laughed aloud this morning to read a small blurb in the Tampa Tribune about the first Baby Boomers will start turning 65 this January. Yes, those born in 1946, unknowingly at the beginning of what would become the most recognized and studied generation in American history, will now be retirement age.

>Holy crap.

But turning 65 does not mean for the boomers what it did for the generation prior. It’s just another birthday. And while the 0 and 5 birthdays can be a little traumatic, this one isn’t even a speed bump for those who made it their life mission to remain forever young.

There were 78 million people born in the US between 1946 and 1964, the years collectively known as The Baby Boom generation. While the assignment of particular start and end dates i rather arbitrary, it should be remembered that 1946 marked the end of World War II. Soldiers returned from war. Rosie the Riveter resumed her household duties (but that would change in time). And men and women did what they do best. They had babies.

Lots of ’em.

The Baby Boom was marked by a string of consecutive years in which there were 4 million or more live births. While that number is fairly routinely passed today, it must be noted that 65 years ago, the US population was much smaller. Thus, with a denominator about one-half what it is today, the percentage growth rate at that time was simply phenomenal. Babies were popping out all over the place.

While I still have a long way to go to 65, I must confess that I can see it from here. Once you hit 50 you can just about see the end of the road. But that doesn’t mean my Boomer friends or I are going to slow down. A few implications for you younguns:

  • We probably will not all retire in order fashion. Some of us will continue working because we need to do, while others will do it simply because we like to be productive. I can see myself doing my professorial duties until at least 75.
  • Even though we are young at heart, we will still need lots of meds to cover up the aches and pains. I see huge career advancement opportunities for pharmacists. And go ahead and buy some of that Walgreen’s and CVS stock. It will be very good to you.
  • Retirement and independent living centers as we know them now will not exist in the years ahead. Unless we all shift gears and start to veg out, we are not going to sit idly by waiting to die. Pinochle and shuffleboard? Are you kidding? We’re going mountain biking. After the Senior Olympics games, that is.
  • Las Vegas will be the next Branson. My cronies can’t handle the thought of going to Missouri to tap our canes to the beat. No, we’re going to be rolling with the changes at the REO Speedwagon Theater, rockin’ the Paradise with Styx, and taking care of business with BTO. Then we’re heading over to Moon at The Palms to shake our groove thing. Get over it.
  • In our spare time, we are going to travel. Everywhere. RVs. Cruises (but not those pompous wear-a-tux-to-dinner cruises). It will be casual, but classy.
  • While we are not digital natives, we have adopted it as our homeland. Our homes will be media-rich, as will our cars, pockets and purses.
  • And we are going to remain leaders…in our places of employment as well as in our communities. Whether it is on the payroll or as a volunteer, we are going to remain actively engaged in multiple spheres of our lives.

I realize that many Gen-X and Gen-Y folks do not like to hear about the Generation That Just Won’t Go Away. Some day we will truly find the exit, but until then we’ll be whistling that Sammy Hagar tune. And hanging out with you at Moon. Because it is a metaphor of our generation, on top and staying there.

Besides, the view is awesome.

Dr “Going Up” Gerlich

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