Tag Archives: baby boomers

I do not fit in that pigeon hole

31 Oct

I have always had a problem with how we arbitrarily place individuals in neat categories for the sake of understanding them. With time stereotypes are developed and when we speak about a certain individual what we remember is the stereotype. I believe in the timeless relevance of people, whatever their age, whatever their background. I am more relevant to others today at age 67 than I was when I was 25 years old, and yet, most people think that I should retire, that I have completed my life cycle. This is a shame. Individuals like me have so much to contribute given their life experience. Although we have made great progress in changing the way others see older adults there is still much to be done. Ageism, a phrase used to denote prejudice against older adults, is alive and well in this country and others. Recent articles present us as selfish and greedy. I take great exception to Joel Kotkin’s article in Newsweek, Are Millennials the Screwed Generation? (July 16, 2012) in which he claims that we have screwed the young generation by taking away jobs by not retiring when we ought to. In my case, the opposite is true.

I am still working and do not plan to retire anytime soon. I created my own company fifteen years ago. The last ten years have been the most productive years of my life. I have been able to better provide for my family, create hundreds of new jobs, change the way we care for low-income seniors in this country and improved the lives of thousands of seniors by providing affordable housing and services to them. I feel more relevant and satisfied than ever before. But make no mistake, I am not exceptional. Thousands of individuals like me are changing the world so that the next generation has it better than us.

In 2006 I was awarded the first Purpose Prize, an award given to those over the age of 60 that have made great contributions to society. Every year since then, awards have been granted to those who have made unique contributions to the welfare of children, young disabled adults, service men returning from wars, reversing climate change, opening the doors to young adults to go to college, among others. It is an impressive group of individuals wishing to leave their mark on this world for the betterment of others. Being among them makes you wonder why we are so vilified and unrecognized. I must conclude that it has to do with the historical phenomena global aging. Never in the history of our world have seniors outnumbered teenagers two to one. Because we have limited resources, this event has pitted young against old.

It is time to set the record straight and the media can do so much. I welcome the New York Times’ recent Boomers website (Booming, Living Through the Middle Ages; http://topics.nytimes.com/top/features/timestopics/series/booming/index.html) where we can begin shattering stereotypes and think of life as having no age but timeless relevance.

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Do I want to live forever?

30 Aug

I’m not alone when I say that I would like to live long enough to see my grandchildren become young adults, but only if I am in good health. There are many in my generation that feel the same way. Much has been written about the potential longevity of the baby boomer generation and the effects it will have on entitlement programs like social security and Medicare. However, recent studies present a different picture. According to a University of Illinois study baby boomers will not live longer than their parents have despite the healthcare improvements, new drugs and the long 20th century experience of ever-rising life expectations; the culprit – factors like elevated rates of obesity, cancer and suicide.

Another study by Rice University claims that it would be a mistake to project longevity gains of the last century throughout this one. Health status of the baby boom versus the preceding generation reveals that they are in worse shape. There is a higher propensity to suicide particularly for those in their 40’s, a time when those rates typically head down. And then there is the ‘Big C’. The post war generation has a higher rate of cancer at younger ages than the previous generation. Women of this generation are the heaviest smoking cohort in U.S. history and they are now suffering its effects.

Obesity among boomers is linked to rising disability and serious health problems like diabetes and heart disease. However, the true impact on longevity that obesity has cannot be seen until we get older. Socioeconomic factors will also significantly impact longevity. It is a well-known fact that rich people live longer than poor people do. We know that the gap between rich and poor keeps widening in this country and that the impoverishment of individuals keeps creeping up. The most at risk, of course, are Latinos and Blacks who swell the ranks of those living under the poverty level. They will see drastic declines in health status over the years.

The moral of the story is that in order to live longer we must have been blessed with good genes and the absence of major health problems, a socioeconomic position that allowed us to have access to preventive healthcare and live healthier lives, otherwise it makes no sense to live forever.

Change is Underway

3 Aug

In the beginning we felt a moral obligation to change the way we care for those less fortunate in our society, the poor elderly and disabled. We soon realized that by changing living conditions, we were improving the health of those individuals, cutting healthcare costs, reducing Medicaid spending, creating new jobs and economic activity, revitalizing neighborhoods and increasing the affordable housing stock. This was the argument we used in convincing government to invest in our project.

Global aging is a historical phenomenon impacting all segments of our society, work, retirement, entitlement programs and healthcare among others. The demographic tsunami of the baby boomer generation will only compound this crisis. Tackling the challenges of global aging must be a priority of all countries. We need to keep seniors healthier, away from institutions, working and engaged because our society drives when everyone in it does. Yet we continue to segregate the elderly, not to be seen or heard. We know so little about them, no wonder our younger generation does not see them as role models.

However, it is going to be hard to continue to ignore seniors in this country. Those of us who belong to the “boomer generation” will be demanding changes. After all we are known for our activism, a trait that has not diminished as we age. We have not given up on changing the world, we are more adamant than ever that we can.

 

Hispanic seniors

2 Mar

We live in an aging world with countries like Japan and Italy with 21.6% of their population 65 years and older.  Our nation is still relatively young with an elderly population of less than 13% but that is about to change.  The baby boomers who started turning 65 last year will add 75 million more seniors and the percentage of seniors in this country will rise to 20% within the next ten years.  This is good news  if you are getting older while remaining healthy.  Unfortunately for the large number of low and middle income seniors staying healthy and having access to services is not always an option.     The growing number of Hispanic seniors continues to experience a litany of problems when accessing services, among them, language and cultural barriers, a fragmented service delivery system and lack of trained bilingual staff.

Take for example my own state of Florida where over one million individuals are 65 years and older and few have access to critical healthcare services.  Luckly for our Hispanic community they are part of what is called the Hispanic paradox which means that despite their socioeconomic hurdles and lack of access they live longer than anyother ethinic or racial group by seven or more years.  This is because Hispanic seniors are much healthier than expected and the reasons for this paradox are a matter of debate.  Many suggest that factors such as diet, lifestyle choices and a strong social support network are key in understanding Hispanics’ better-than-expected health.  Another favorable condition of Hispanics in Florida include declining disability rates, lower rates of Medicaid use and low utilization of nursing home care.