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Why 60 Is Not the New 50

An older boomer's 8 tips for younger boomers on the decade ahead


Not long ago I learned about a subgroup of the boomer generation: Generation Jones, or Jonesers. These are the folks born in the second half of the baby boom, from about 1955 to 1964. (The older boomers were born between 1946 and 1954.) As I explain in my blog, although early and late boomers may have much in common, they also have major differences.

And now that older boomers (including me) have reached retirement age — we’re 60 to 68 — the differences are even more pronounced. For example:

  • Many older boomers are eligible for Medicare; Jonesers must grapple with Obamacare.
  • Our careers are either over or on the downswing; Jonesers are not even at their peak earnings.
  • Many older boomers have lost both parents; Jonesers are sandwiched between caring for their aging parents and raising kids.
  • Our kids are Gen Xers; Jonesers’ are Millennials.
  • Gen Jonesers were barely alive when the Beatles were together!

(MORE: The 15 Songs That Defined the Boomer Generation)

What Do We Have In Common?

Frankly, I’m not too sure what older and younger boomers have in common other than being lumped together by demographers.

By the time the Jonesers were 18, the war in Vietnam was over and young men didn’t have to worry about being drafted. And the Civil Rights, Free Speech and women’s movements were all at least a decade old. Jonesers were just kids when our heroes were assassinated, both shocking and motivating us.

You Jonesers joined with us in our battles, certainly, and together we moved some mountains. But as we older boomers have gotten grayer, we have experienced some lessons we can pass on to you, our younger brothers and sisters.

The transition from being in your 50s to being in your 60s is about as radical as any I’ve experienced, including when I entered and left my teen years. Chances are, like me, when you get into your 60s, you’ll find yourself facing many issues you feel totally unprepared for.

(MORE: 25 Things I Know Now That I’m 60)

We saw our parents go through these stages and now we are our parents. For many of us, we are the oldest generation in our families. There’s no one in front of us as we go up the escalator. That’s scary.

An Older Boomer’s 8 Tips for Younger Boomers

But I have good news for younger boomers, starting with the hackneyed cliché: It keeps getting better. With that in mind, here are eight of my best pieces of advice for you:

1. Don’t try to hold on to your youth. Embrace your age. Teach your kids and the rest of the world to value age. And look forward to getting older (forget about the joke that it beats the alternative). Only when you’re proud of being older will others realize that experience is valuable. Age really does bring wisdom.

2. Give back. You can use the wisdom you’ve gained through experience to great benefit. With more free or discretionary time, we early boomers rediscovered our idealism. For a time, we were like you are now — too busy raising families and working to become involved in issues that concerned us. Now we can. You were always more cynical, but I encourage you to embrace activism. You’ll be able to take a leadership position in an area that affects the quality of your life and can actually affect change.

(MORE: Market Basket: The Return of Boomer Activism)

3. Accept help graciously. When you go over to your parents’ house, you probably help them with some chores they struggle with: changing a light bulb that’s out of reach, carrying or moving something heavy or fixing something broken. Your parents needed to learn to accept your help. Soon, you’ll have the pleasure of doing the same with your kids. You loved giving to your parents; some time in the not too distant future, let your adult children have the same joy of helping you.

4. Keep fit. There’s no denying that physical changes happen as we advance a decade. You’ll switch from an attitude of “no pain, no gain” to “don’t overdo it.” Accept some of this — but not all of it. Don’t stop exercising. Do accept that your body is just that little bit more fragile and your healing powers slightly diminished. Be more careful about what you do.

5. Find some new goals. In our 50s, we accomplished many of our goals or gave up on those that were out of reach. We had families and got to the top of our career paths. Then we realized we didn’t have any more goals. That left us rudderless. By starting now to think about life after work, you will be in a much better position to find those new and realistic goals for your later years.

6. Pay attention. Most of what happens to us is not a surprise. Sure, sometimes life brings the unexpected — an injury or, much better, lottery winnings. But more often than not, we see the ball coming at us. By anticipating, planning, budgeting,and paying attention, you won’t have to rely on luck to reach your goals or enjoy life. That includes all the financial, legal, health and work choices you make.

7. Choose your lifestyle. Budgeting is not a diet to get you to live within your means. It’s not even about making your money last. It’s about figuring out how you can maintain the lifestyle you want for the rest of your life. The quality of your life is about choosing the most appropriate lifestyle for you.

8. Don’t judge yourself. You’ve already made lifestyle decisions, including your goals and interests. What you do now in your free time is what you want to do. Don’t judge whether it’s good or bad. It’s a choice you made. But also keep in mind that you’re not stuck with it forever — it can and will likely change.

To Next Avenue readers — early boomers and Jonesers — what have I forgotten to include? To you Jonesers, which cultural or historic events happened in your life that shaped who you are and made you different than the early boomers? Let us know.

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