According to the American Association of Retired People, there are 108.7 million folks in the United States over the age of 50. This includes 76.4 million Boomers (born 1946-1964), compared with 49 million Gen Xers and 82 million millennials. Moreover, the number of people 50-plus will continue to grow over the next decade to the tune of 19 million, versus a growth of only 6 million for the 18-to-49 population. I am in the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation having been born in 1963. At 55 years of age, I am eligible for a few discounts at a variety of shopping locations and am experiencing the cadre of issues that confront the growing demographic of aging Americans.
My first clue that I was getting older came when I started hearing my favorite rock and roll songs done up as easy listening tunes and played in elevators and as background Muzak at places I shop. Then people started calling me sir. Now this happened to me at an earlier age than most since I have been going prematurely gray since my early teens. I stopped getting carded years ago. I don't mind getting a bit older but hearing Pink Floyd at the mall was anathema to me.
I had my only child, a son, when I was 32. With an average life expectancy of 78.9 years in the United States, I wasn't quite a middle-age father but I was certainly older than a lot of my friends and others in my generation who had children right out of college while in their early 20s. I felt my age as my little crumb cruncher ran me through my paces as he grew up. My declining amount of time, due to work obligations, and vigor, due to my advancing years, was no match for his boundless energy. It didn't help that I was breaking the scales at a whopping 365 pounds. So, I had a gastric bypass surgery that resulted in some complications, nearly a year-long recovery and, eventually, 180 pounds of lost weight.
Now I am at an age in which I have to take proactive care of my health. (My colonoscopy story is an odyssey unto itself that I will not bore you with at this time.) My monthly trip to the pharmacist leaves me laden with a lengthy list of prescriptions that requires a pill caddy. I have a pedometer app for my phone to help remind me to keep my step count up to recommended levels (not that I make it that often). I have also switched my diet to incorporate more organic fruits and vegetables and I try to cook with less fat and salt.
As I age I have noticed my body has created a cacophony of clicks and pops in my bones from old injuries and arthritis. If you can believe it, I have found that it is even possible to sleep wrong, waking in pain from having my arm in an inappropriate position. Being a modern Native, I now crawl into bed with a heating pad rather than the heated rock wrapped in newspapers that my great Aunt Violet was fond of. Just as important as heat to bring blood to my spasming lower back, I have found that ice is now my friend to help reduce swelling.
I have faced age discrimination, to be certain. Nearly four years ago, I decided it was time to explore new career challenges and I began looking for work with new organizations. Having been in my job for a number of years, I was used to a certain level of pay. It seemed like every interview I went to was looking for younger people who would be willing to do the same job for significantly less money. It took nearly a year and half to find an organization that appreciated my unique combination of skills and experience and was willing to compensate me accordingly.
I enjoy the work I do now. My only regret is that, as I get older, I realize I may have been more of a grasshopper than an ant in the fable that gave merit to saving for lean times, or retirement, in this case. Like most Americans, I have lived outside my means and accrued a heady level of debt. This includes home and car loans, as well as credit cards. Now that I have a son in college, I realize retirement is but a distant, shimmering dream as equity in my house has gone to tuition and we are part of the middle class that gets little financial aid other than loans. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, I should have set up a tax deferred tuition fund for my son when he was born.
My advice: Find extra income where you can, use your spare hours in a profitable way, play the lottery more and put as much as you can away for the time when you will need that retirement income.
Just my two dentalias worth.
André Cramblit is at ease with getting older though he shed a tear or two when the Arcata School of Massage closed down.