AS I WAS RINGING IN 2011 on the roof deck of a friend’s freshly rehabbed Grad Hospital rowhome, watching the Penn’s Landing fireworks light the sky to the east, and admiring our city’s sparkling skyline to the north, something big was looming. Finally. Doomsday. On January 1st of this year, 10,000 baby boomers a day started turning 65. The trend, according to the Pew Research Center, will continue for the next 19 years.
I don’t know when exactly this never-ending story — essentially, the story of boomers getting old — started dominating our news, politics and culture. For me, a smack-in-the-middle of-Generation-X adult of 38 years, the interminable aging process of this massive generation has always been there, casting a shadow over my future like, well, a parasite ready to suck the life out of my highest-earning-potential years. That it has arrived in the midst of a bad recession just seems to be the icing on the tapeworm.
So the end has begun. Maybe we can move on now? But no, befitting the latter-days boomer rep for self-centeredness and greed, the focus of this ad nauseam tale of aging now shifts to how they’re retiring at a bad time, in a bad economy, how they — the generation that once talked about living in communes and rolled in the mud at Woodstock and protested bad government, yet sold out on all that for Volvos in the ’burbs — how they who once had it so much better than their parents were now, indeed, worse off. Where are the stories about how college-grad Millennials currently can’t even get their foot in the door of a decent paying job? The articles about how Generation X is sandwiched between the older boomers, whose retirement will start to strain Social Security to the breaking point, and the children of younger boomers, who were raised helicopter-style and need to be spoon-fed praise to get anything done at the office? Few and far between. Boomers may finally be queuing for their long-stretching shuffle off into the sunset, but they’re still a large majority in power and still controlling the national conversation.
So perhaps you’ll excuse me if, as I took in that city skyline from the roof deck on New Year’s Eve — a night that admittedly can play on a soul’s cynicism and hopefulness all at once like no other holiday can — I couldn’t help but think: You mean these people aren’t dying already?