Baby Boomers and the battle of the bulge

I'm a Baby Boomer, and apparently that tells you a lot about me.

It tells you when I was born (somewhere between 1946 and 1964. In fact, exactly between 1946 and 1964.)

It tells you there are a lot of people like me (77 million).

And it tells you that I'm pretty much clueless when it comes to figuring out how I'm going to take care of myself and my fellow Boomers in the future.

I was politely reminded of my status as part of a demographic bulge - we make the population curve look like its pregnant - twice in the last week.

First, Janice Ayres, the former city supervisor who runs the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, interviewed me for a seminar she is attending this week on the future of volunteerism sponsored by the Nevada Commission on Aging.

A premise is that things are looking pretty bleak for programs that depend on volunteers, because Baby Boomers just can't be bothered with that sort of thing.

The people who now donate their time are largely part of that Greatest Generation who survived and thrived because of their self-reliance and their sense of responsibility in helping others.

All that work they put in made it easy for us Baby Boomers. We've been coasting along, taken care of by somebody or another without really appreciating how good we've got it.

When it comes time to step up to the plate, we're going to look around and say, "Who, me?"

If you're like me, you bristled a little bit when you read that. Obviously, there are plenty of Baby Boomer-age folks who are volunteering in all sorts of ways.

But I finally had to admit that, when we're lumped together as 77 million sedentary souls, there probably isn't the same commitment to charity work as in previous generations.

I think that's especially true when it comes to volunteering to help senior citizens. When I look around at my friends and acquaintances who spend a significant amount of time lending a hand, it's usually directed at children.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course. Little leagues, scouting, the Boys & Girls Club, Court Appointed Special Advociates, BACStage Kids - they're extremely important to shaping the future of the community.

Baby Boomers are involved with kids because they have kids (and grandkids). One would have to assume, though, that Baby Boomers do have parents, too.

I know I do. Unfortunately, I moved 2,000 miles away from my mother. So I don't move in her circle of friends, and I'm not as conscious of activities going on for seniors in Carson City as I would if she were here. By the way, she volunteers for everything.

When I was talking with Janice, I found out there is a new term for Baby Boomers. We're now called "New People."

Yeah, right.

We were new people 40 years ago. Now we're old people.

So, who's going to take care of us New People as we become the Fogey People?

That was the second time Baby Boomers came up this week. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other members of the Aging Committee (now, that's an apt name) had a hearing on the effect of Baby Boomers on the nation's retirement system.

Here are Harry's "10 Things Every Aging Boomer Needs To Know."

- Do you know Medicare doesn't cover long-term care or prescription drugs, and Social Security benefits will provide less than half of the average income.

- Do you have long-term care insurance that will cover two years of institutional or home-based care?

- Do you have disability insurance to replace your income if you can't work until retirement?

- Do you save enough to maintain your current standard of living upon retirement?

- Do you exercise regularly and follow a healthy diet?

- Do you receive regular cancer screenings (breast, prostate and colon) and are you a non-smoker?

- Do you have a personal support system to help with your long-term care needs?

- Do you know how to handle possible physical changes, such as the inability to drive or to use the stairs in your home?

- Do you know where to obtain aging services and information in your area?

- Do you expect to care for a family member or friend and have you considered the effect on your retirement plans?

According to Reid's "Boomer Scorecard," if you answered yes to four or fewer of the questions, you better get started on planning for your future.

I don't know about you, but I suddenly feel a lot older.

Barry Smith is managing editor of the Nevada Appeal.


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