Tag Archives: Ageism

Stop bellyaching about Vermont’s aging population.

Once again, a Vermont Governor is lamenting the aging of our state population, extrapolating nothing but gloom in our economic forecast.

Yes, we have a surplus of Vermonters over the age of 65; yes, we have declining numbers of youth refreshing our labor force; and yes, we are experiencing slow growth due to labor shortages.

That’s the cup-half-empty picture.

But applying a cup-half-full perspective to the same facts could present a picture of opportunity.

We’ve imagined our state becoming a hub of small scale manufacturing, captive insurance markets, tech industry, specialty foods, recreation and tourist activity. With some success, we have focussed on and incentivized each of these sectors in turn, attempting to fertilize the seeds of state potential.

In each case, we looked to our state’s unique qualities as strengths to be marketed to a larger world, yet we have never thought of an aging population as anything other than an inconvenience bordering on a burden; something to be apologized away or camouflaged by any youngsters we can bring to the front of the queue.

We are missing out on the resource that an older population can represent. If the state incentivizes a state-of-the-art eldercare and senior housing industry, with walkable communities, targeted recreational opportunities and social networking innovations; Vermont could become a trend-setter, attracting the best skilled youth workforce in the healthcare sphere from all over the country.

Those newcomers could become cornerstones of a new generation, expanding our tax base, filling classrooms and playgrounds with future Vermonters.

Embracing the natural aging of our population and viewing it as an opportunity for innovation is the smart way to tackle the future; and we could sure use some “smarts” right about now.

As one of the discounted multitude,  I still have to buy food and clothing, keep a roof over my head, attend to my medical and dental needs, and consume a modicum of entertainment.  I may even spend more money in some instances, than do younger consumers, in order  to create a safe environment in my home, protect my health, coddle grandchildren, beautify my garden, travel and learn.

We’re here; we’re not dying off anytime soon; and we have needs that are often unmet within our communities.  It’s time to give this new market a second look.

Press Seven for “Older Than Jesus.”

I just got polled for the 2016 election, thus entering the endless stream of statistics from which current campaigns will attempt to divine the future.

I suppose I should be flattered that anyone even cares what I think, but after I hung up the phone all I could think about was that, when they asked for my age, I had to wait patiently through six younger options before choosing the last, number seven, which was depressingly simple: I am now “over 65.”

Like some cliff to the abyss, “over 65” seems to imply that I’m just waiting for the undertaker.

Well, excuse me, but I still have my teeth, my full faculties and an undiminished appetite to see the future.

My husband (also “over 65”) and I carry a mortgage, insurance, a car loan, and our fair share of debt. We shop for groceries, replace clothing and shoes from time to time, and even appliances, as necessary. We’ve even been known to spring for a little entertainment, when the budget allows.

But we are simply shelved as the generic ‘old’ by marketing mavens. Our individual habits and opinions are of little concern to them, so we routinely receive automated calls concerning chairlifts and back braces in which we have supposedly expressed interest.

We haven’t. In the course of just attempting to continue our meager income stream, I routinely carry twenty-two pound barrels of material up a flight of stairs and through the house. My husband carries the heavier loads. We get by because we have no other choice. We’re not ready to throw in the towel. We do eye those chairlifts a little enviously, though. One would sure come in handy when we occasionally have to move a forty-pound barrel of material up that flight of stairs!

I remember when Baby Boomers drove the market like a mighty machine. Blue jeans, Beatles, “Europe on $5. a Day,” Mustangs & Beetles, Pop Art, Coca Cola, best-sellers, ‘starter’ homes, Jazzercise, “having it all,” pre-nups, ticking clocks, Montessori pre-school, Botox, mid-life crisis…Madison Avenue couldn’t get enough of us.

But that was then and this is now. Twitter, Instagram, i-Phone, Pokemon, kraft beer and exotic sliders, Uber, AirB&B, game night, technical apparel, youtube; we Boomers don’t have much impact on the market anymore.

At most, we are welcome on the perimeter of where it all happens, but we risk appearing as pathetic as Donald Trump’s comb-over.

Generational relevance passes in the blink of an eye; but if you believe the news, many of us irrelevancies may live into our hundreds. How very inconvenient.

We are reminded endlessly of how little will be our contribution to society from now on; and what a burden we will be for younger generations.

That’s unvarnished ageism.

If many will likely live to be a hundred, doesn’t it follow to some extent that we have to be reasonably healthy in order to do so? And if we are reasonably well at seventy in an era when people live to be a hundred, isn’t it possible that we might be as valuable a member of society at seventy-five as a 50-year old was when, not too long ago, the average age of death was seventy-five?

Why aren’t we giving more thought to how a healthy population of mobile and experienced “senior citizens” might contribute as much to the economic and social well-being of their communities as do much younger citizens. It doesn’t all have to be about chair-lifts and Depends.

Next time some robocalling pollster wants to know my age, how about letting me hear an eighth option: ”Are you over 85?”