As a Gerontologist, a social scientist who studies research, trends and the promotion of successful aging specific to ages 60 and above, I have a pretty good understanding of older age groups. In a previous blog, I rattled on about all sorts of (and sometimes irreverent) names we use for older adults. In an attempt to avoid ageism, that nasty prejudice that pits the elderly against everyone else, today I want to get a little academic.
The clinical (and tough-to-hear) identifying verbiage for older adults are the following terms: the young old: ages 65-74; the old (but I like to say just plain old!): ages 75-84; and the very old: ages 85-100+. Older adults hate these terms; I know this because they keep telling me! The most common reason that much-older people hate the word “old” is because some younger people (and sometimes they themselves) equate “old” with “frail”, and just because we are old does not mean we are frail.
The frustration of facing another prejudice—the aforementioned ageism—is disheartening to older adults, many of whom are still working on conquering genderism, racism and/or religious prejudice. Disheartening is too gentle a word. All of us will be old, and you’d think we’d start fighting ageism early. Silly as it is, we don’t look forward often because we are in denial of our own aging! Let’s face it; being old is not the most popular thing to think about.
But, let’s do face it. Let’s think about our own old age as something to enjoy rather than just fear. There are things to look forward to in every age. But since we can’t avoid it, let’s take steps now to make it better. And better is really good in old age.
Many people see age 65 as an “easing up” of daily rat-racing, and anytime after they can afford to stop working as the “golden years.” The thought of easing-up instead of “retiring” is positive to most Boomers; this generation is marked with a can-do attitude and a spontaneous nature. Negatively, only a little more than half were on track with retirement savings before the beginning of the New Recession (2008-2010). Now everyone is behind where they hoped to be financially. Another component to Boomers working longer is that they don’t particularly want to retire if they don’t have to; a more palatable idea is “exploring their options”. Boomers really do see themselves as more vibrant than their own images of “senior citizens”.
Any Gerontologist will tell you that the Builder Generation of our great country were good savers, and looked forward to passing assets onto their Boomer children. These funds will help defer the 2008-10 losses in Boomer retirement accounts and for those who haven’t yet saved enough for their older age. It is critical to have legislation to protect this interfamily gifting, because the same day that the “Age Wave” hits America, 1-1-2011, the national estate tax ceiling plunges to the lower levels of a decade ago. Then, dramatically on 1-1-2012, heirs will be taxed on every dime their inheritance!
The real test of the metal of Baby Boomers will be in the way we use the wealth we are about to inherit. I would like to see “the metal” become “the medal”; that badge of courage to forego the possibilities of the present to prepare ourselves for the realities of the future. Being “old” may seem like a long way off; but being in denial that we will get there is just a waste of precious time. May we all be well-prepared to enjoy those “golden years”!
© 2010 Diane Alexander Patterson, MSG, CPG “If good real estate is about location, location, location, then ‘success in aging’ is about attitude, attitude, attitude!” www.SeasonofLife.net