The baby boom reaches retirement age
By: Tom Oleson
It's New Year's Eve, so let us end this annus horribilis on the most
cheerful note we can blow: If you are a baby boomer, tomorrow may be
the first day of the last decade of your life, so make Jan. 1, 2011,
a day to remember because it not only marks the beginning of a new
year and a new decade, it also marks the beginning of a new era as
the boomer generation begins to wither into old age.
When the first boomers were born in 1946, their life expectancy was
66 years; they reach retirement age in 2011. When the last baby
boomers were born in 1964, their life expectancy was 68 years -- not
a lot of improvement over 18 years of scientific breakthroughs, but
since then there have been some dramatic changes.
Life expectancy for Canadians is now pushing 81, and although that's
for children born this year, some of that medical miracle snake oil
has rubbed off on the rest of us, too. So, kids, don't expect Mom and
Dad to give away all their worldly possessions just yet. Most of us
plan to burden you with our presence for a long time to come.
The decade that begins Saturday marks the metamorphosis of the first
baby boomers into senior citizens. We will become official old-timers
-- and I say "we" advisedly, because I am among them. I was born in
February 1946 (Feb. 25 to be precise and in case you want to ensure
your gifts arrive in a timely fashion.)
By the end of the next decade, we will be 75, if we are still around
and, in my case, at least, totally dependent on the rest of you for
all our needs.
And those needs will be considerable, because if there was one thing
the baby boomers learned, one idea that we embraced, it is that
desires and needs are synonymous. If you want something, you not only
need to have it, you deserve to have it.
The youngest baby boomers, those born in 1964, will only be 57 in
2021 -- they are just stripling youths of 46 today but they will
inevitably, inexorably walk in our footsteps. Perhaps they can even
carry us for awhile, and why shouldn't they? After all, we geezers
made this wonderful world in which they and their children get to live.
There has probably never been a generation as self-important and
self-satisfied as mine. But as we prepare to leave the world to
whatever the generations that follow us call themselves -- given the
financial burden of government pensions and health care we are about
to dump on them, "baby-busters" might be suitable -- it is useful to
wonder what we accomplished.
Personally, I am proudest of the fact that we got girls and young
women out of their panty-girdle prisons and into more comfortably
flimsy scanties, but perhaps an entire generation doesn't want that
written on its tombstone.
So what can we claim to have done? We were the authors of the sexual
revolution and the liberators of women and we broke down barricades
against the use of recreational drugs.
We can't claim to have actually invented the single-parent family but
we did make it the norm. We probably didn't invent HIV or herpes
either, but we did pass it around like it was Halloween candy. We
opened the world to cocaine and crystal meth so they would be easily
available to our children.
We did bring rock 'n' roll into the mainstream of popular culture, so
we are probably ultimately responsible for boy bands and Justin
Bieber, God forgive us. And speaking of God, we abandoned Him for hedonism.
And then there was flower power, the hippies, the anti-war movement,
the drop-your-drawers approach to dating and the sprouting of the
green movement. Haight-Ashbury, Woodstock, even Altamont, these are
the iconic images of the flower generation.
Even in Winnipeg we had their equivalent -- a hippie campground in
Memorial Park, a riot for no apparent purpose on Portage Avenue and
even our own Summer of Love when Led Zeppelin performed at Man-Pop
and love-ins were held at Assiniboine Park. What a great time to be alive!
Well, actually not, or not really any more so than any other time.
Life always looks better in the rear-view mirror. The truth of the
matter is the rumours of the baby-boomers' licentious lifestyles and
swollen social consciousness are greatly exaggerated. A few us were
hippies and social activists, free-sexers and political subversives,
but most us lived the way most members of every generation do,
getting educated, getting a job, getting married, having kids. Ho-hum.
If so many of us remember it as being more exciting than that, it is
probably because of a timeless and universal phenomenon -- once the
revolution is won, everyone wants to have been on the barricades,
once the war is over, everyone wants to have been a soldier.
I have at home a set of CDs called Flower Power, songs of the late
1960s and early 1970s. I don't remember where they came from, if they
were a gift from the kids or something ordered off TV by my wife in
an over-medicated moment, but they are still pristine in their
shrink-wrap, all these songs I once listened to so intently. The
world does move on relentlessly.
The baby boomers' legacy consists mainly of a considerable financial
burden for our children and the coming society to bear, or so our
heirs might think. But as we fade away, we can take solace in the
fact that if we didn't actually leave the world a better place, we
left it a far more interesting one.
Medicare Bound to Bust as First Boomers Hit 65
Starting New Year's Day 10,000 Will Reach Eligibility for Program
Every Day for 19 Years, Risking Its Bankruptcy by 2017
Dec. 30, 2010
By Sharyl Attkisson
WASHINGTON - The coming year is a big one for President George W.
Bush, President Clinton and for millions of others born in 1946, the
start of the post-war baby boom.
They're turning 65.
That makes them eligible for Medicare, with huge implications for our
future, CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.
On New Year's Day, the first baby boomers will celebrate the big 6-5,
and they're not just getting older. They're getting more costly.
"Boomers" are the 77 million Americans born from 1946 through '64.
Beginning Jan. 1, 10,000 a day will turn 65. That will continue for
the next 19 years.
"The retirement of the baby boom generation will bring a tsunami of
spending that will cause a severe problem for the federal
government's budget over time," said David Walker, former U.S.
comptroller general and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative.
Take Medicare, health care for the elderly and disabled:
•The number of people eligible will nearly double from 46 million to
80 million by the time all the boomers reach 65.
•It's estimated the cost will grow from $500 billion a year today to
$929 billion by 2020.
•The number of workers supporting each senior will fall.
"Ultimately we're going to have to make tough choices about how much
health care can we afford and sustain and how are we going to change
our payment systems to make sure that it doesn't bankrupt the
country," said Walker. "Because if there's one thing that could
bankrupt the United States, it's out-of-control health care costs."
Medicare is already underfunded by at least $23 trillion. That's the
difference between the benefits promised and the taxes actually being
paid into Medicare. It could go bankrupt as early as 2017. Yet
Americans still, apparently, want it all. According to a new
Associated Press/GfK poll, they don't want to raise the age for Medicare.
Sixty-one percent favor raising Medicare taxes to avoid cutting
Medicare benefits, and a majority of both Democrats and Republicans,
young and old, would rather raise taxes than cut benefits.
The health care town hall meetings gave a glimpse into how Americans
react when they think their benefits might be cut.
To save the system, fiscal watchdogs insist Americans will ultimately
have to work longer and get used to less government help. The
question is not if change will have to be made but when politicians
choose to make them.