I am a Baby Boomer, born just shy of the end of the “greatest generation” consisting of Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
I have no qualms about admitting my age because, as I see it, having birthdays and aging are better than the alternative of, well, not having birthdays and dying.
However, I didn’t always identify with the aging process and used to tease older co-workers and editors. I love to laugh and try not to take myself or life too seriously and tend to remind others not to do that either.
But, as they say, “what goes around, comes around,” so here I am, having to take what I dished out 26 years ago. I finally reached the point where I am the oldest person in the newsroom. Most of my co-workers are at their first newspaper job.
The jokes started when I realized that the minimum age for joining a senior center is 55 and eligibility for Meals on Wheels is 60. One of my co-workers filled out an application for MOW in my name as a joke, noting that I needed help getting around and had other issues associated with aging.
They think it’s funny to suggest I have trouble with computers, mechanized transportation and technology in general. I get jokes about memory, digestion and getting to bed early.
Oh, yeah, it’s a riot. But it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I find myself making fun of the younger generation’s lack of experience and knowledge. I’m proud of the decades of learning I’ve acquired getting to this age. I lived through incidents they only learned about in school or through Google.
I think my complacency with aging developed through my own comfort around older folks. When I was a kid, my mom took us to visit older relatives, carried them to the doctor and to the store. I grew up with her taking us to the cemetery to put flowers on the graves of dead relatives. I learned early that aging and dying are part of life.
Unlike some people, I have no phobias about going to nursing homes. When I worked in Twiggs County, I used to go by a nursing home in Jeffersonville to listen to residents talk about their childhood and how life used to be for them.
I think that’s what’s wrong with younger folks. They seem to forget that the “old man” with the gray hair was something else before time marched across his knees and back, and robbed him of the ability to always remember to tie his shoes or zip up his pants.
He was a truck driver, a welder, a news reporter, a banker, a store manager, a cop or fireman, a lawyer or doctor. He worked hard to raise a family, took vacations, played catch with his son and wiped his daughter’s tears when her heart got broken. He paid his bills, taxes and mortgage, and saved for retirement.
He went to church, to Wal-Mart and the dentist. He borrowed his neighbor’s lawnmower and loaned out his ratchet set. He served his community on city council or county commission. Above all, he has stories to tell, stories that younger folks won’t be able to tell for 30 or more years.
He succeeded in surviving all life threw at him, to get to a certain age and what does he get in return? He’s discarded, shoved aside, made to feel redundant, ridiculed and teased and for what? Getting older? Having more birthdays than people around him?
Yes, what goes around, comes around. I was young and found it funny to tease older folks. Now I am older and am getting that treatment in return. If these same young’uns are lucky, they’ll be where I am one day, where “the old man” is now.
The old man and I have an advantage, however. We are members of America’s greatest generation. We’re tough, survivors and resilient. We have a strong work ethic and know generating a sweat is good for the soul. They have the uncanny ability to find videos on YouTube, create a webpage and reach top levels on gaming systems. Hope they can manage to survive on those skills.