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Life as a middle-aged baby boomer

September 08, 2000

Life as a middle-aged baby boomer



By DON WORTHINGTON / Staff Writer


You don't remember much about history, don't know much biology, or even the French you took.

But you do remember the day Jack was shot, then Bobby and Martin.

You remember who shot J.R., but are confounded that the Professor could make everything short of a nuclear reactor with a coconut, yet couldn't repair the Minnow's hull.

Disco is dead, and Elvis has left the building, yet your music rocks on. But, you have to find a classic rock or golden oldies station where the DJs have never seen their namesake, a vinyl 45 rpm disc.

If you remember these milestones, you're probably a baby boomer - an aging baby boomer.

You're probably also middle-aged.

Half of the 75.8 million baby boomers - those people born between 1946 and 1964 - are middle-aged. The U.S. Census defines middle age as 45 to 64.

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Four million baby boomers hit age 45 this year. Next year 4.2 million Americans reach that milestone. In 2006, the largest group of baby boomers, 4.2 million, will be middle-aged.

An estimated one-third of the Tri-State's population of nearly 600,000 is baby boomers, according to the U.S. Census. At least one-third of this population is expected to live past 85, according to Census projections.

For the baby boomers, it's a time when they will blossom or bust, maybe even both.

Studies, such as a recent Heinz Family Philanthropies/Newsweek Poll, show most are better off financially than their parents were, but many middle-agers face unforeseen financial demands.

They are members of the "Sandwich Generation," facing the burden of not only paying for their children's college education, but for the care of their aging parents as well.

And then there are the "boomerangs," children who have completed college, but haven't left the nest yet. According to the magazine American Demographics, almost one in four households headed by a Baby Boomer includes an adult child.

While retirement seems far off, many middle-agers are eying their company's pension plans, how much - if any - they've accumulated in a 401K plan.

It's not all woe. There's a lot of new on the horizon. Middle age can be middle youth.

What a wonderful world it can be.

And for some, one to look forward to.

"I think when people get to middle age, they stop worrying about what other people think and they show their true selves," said Jessica Benedict, 12, an eighth-grader at Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown who was among several young people asked by The Herald-Mail for their views on middle age.

For many, adaptability is the key to middle age.

As author Michael Gross notes in his book, "My Generation," the boomers are the original adaptable generation.

"This (is) the first generation to grow up with remote controls, we invented channel-surfing and attention deficit living. That taught us to be infinitely adaptable."

As boomers age, they find they need to adapt their diet (more water, less carbs), their exercise patterns (more stretching), their health care needs (higher risks for many diseases), their relationships (friends, family and lovers), and above all, how they view themselves.

"Develop happiness in your home first," said Donna Stevenson Swope, a licensed clinical social worker with Brook Lane Health Services, Meadowbrook Outpatient Division in Hagerstown. Swope says. "Involve yourself in life-giving things" to step out of the solitary world that the Internet and television create.

"Isolation is social suicide," Swope said.

Middle-agers seek the new world, with new partners, or at least looking for ways to bring newness to their partnerships. After all, this is the generation that pushed the divorce rate to 50 percent. (The rate among the general population is 25 percent, according to the Barna Research Group which studies cultural trends.)

"What sustains a marriage and a relationship over time is being willing to notice that it's changing," said Dr. Greg Lyon-Loftus, a partner in Mont Alto Family Practice in Waynesboro, Pa.

For their 25th wedding anniversary this summer, The Lyon-Loftuses wrote a covenant to each other that included a promise to always be honest, to stimulate each others' growth and creativity and their goal to always feel comfortable together.

With age there does come some needed change in lifestyle.

"We probably need exercise more as we age than when we were younger," said Douglas B. Lentz, director of fitness and wellness at Results Therapy & Fitness in Chambersburg, Pa.

Moderate exercise is safe for most people, but if it's been years since you've done anything physically active, consult your doctor before starting a program, Lentz said. Also visit your doctor if your family has a history of heart attacks, diabetes or stroke.

Another key concern is high blood pressure, which Lee Daugherty, owner of Lifetime Fitness Development in Boonsboro, calls the "the silent killer." Physical exertion may bring to the fore a blood pressure problem a person didn't know existed, he said.

Boomers are also a generation of life-long learners - out of necessity. They face an up-and-coming work force that's willing to work 24/7 and is unfazed by technology.

They're also looking for ways to define themselves beyond work and their children. The generation that grew up challenging the status quo is often found turning to many traditional things: Volunteering their time to something other than youth sports or schools, seeking spirituality and travel.

Middle age. Middle youth.

You may not be an "A" student, but you're learned that the game of life is more than chutes and ladders. Too bad you can't twist the night away anymore.

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