In 1967 the Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four” appeared on the now iconic Sgt. Pepper album, and many, including this writer, considered age 64 “old.” (Of course, I was only 12, but 64 was old at that time.)
But when General Norman Schwarzkopf recently died at age 78, I did not consider him old.
So what happened to change my view of when old age begins?
Well for starters, I got old along with the 76 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 who are affectionately known as “baby boomers.” Boomers transformed America at every stage of life. Unfortunately, our nation was totally unprepared for all the change we brought every step of the way and now is no different.
Last year at an Aging in America conference, Ken Dychtwald, CEO of the consulting firm AgeWave, summed it up like this:
“We weren’t prepared for the boomers,” he said. “There weren’t enough hospitals or pediatricians. There weren’t enough bedrooms in our homes. There weren’t enough schoolteachers or textbooks or playgrounds. The huge size of this generation has strained institutions every step of the way.”
Then Dychtwald compared his New Jersey high school, with such overcrowding that students had to go to classes in shifts, to what’s in store for aging baby boomers in the coming decades.
“The boards of education had 13 years to see this coming. What was the surprise there?” said Dychtwald. “But it’s the same today with senior care and geriatric medicine and continuum of care. It’s staggering how unprepared we are.”
Yes, it is staggering indeed — and, as the saying goes, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”