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The Generations Rock On

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The baby boomers are not dead yet. Someday they will be dead, as will be Generation X, the millennials and all the above' great-great-grandchildren -- barring, of course, a medical cure for mortality.

But you'd think the large cohort born between 1946 and 1964 were already consigned to American memory, given man members' oozy nostalgia and declarations of surrender to younger folk. If your time warp is 1968, that's your call. But 2013 is also an interesting time.

Generations sadly get assigned an identity based on their members' youthful activities. The New York Times' "Booming" blog feasts on 40-year-old pictures of young folks with unsavory long hair. Either that or advice pieces on "sleep deficiency in midlife" or "when it's time for assisted living."

Quite depressing, really, for people of this age and those who soon will be. There was a soul-scraping piece by Lucian K. Truscott IV, a writer for the Village Voice back when who has returned to New York City to be near his daughter.

"I caught a glimpse of myself in a storefront window after I left the bar later that afternoon," Truscott writes. "The sun was low and the shadows were long and the face looking back at me was weathered and wrinkled, the shoulders a little stooped, a good deal of hair gone missing."

Of today's young people, he says, "It's their city now, I thought, just as it was ours."

Oh? When was the key to the city turned over? Who stuck through the filth and crime of the bad old days when the hipsters were still toddling around their suburban cul-de-sacs?

Please get this guy some Lexapro. What's the big deal about being 66? The RAND Corp. recently reported a spike in the rate of new business formations by those who turn 65 -- the age of Medicare, when they no longer have to stay in jobs they dislike for health coverage. How about a magazine article titled "30 Boomers to Watch"?

Even the Greatest Generation is not gone. Its ranks are greatly thinned, for sure, but those still here are here. The following is a true story, I swear.

My 89-year-old aunt in Florida was widowed a few years ago after a 60-plus-year marriage. When we'd visit, she'd open her dust-free photo album and show us pictures of, among other people, her teenage love, a dashing Flying Tiger in Air Force uniform. There's Aunt Shirley in her frock, Jack in uniform, right in front of a Ferris wheel, happy as kittens. Jack soon went back to war. He named his plane after her, the plane he later bailed out of over China.

They lost contact until a year ago, when his children hunted down my aunt in Boynton Beach. Turns out she was living just a few miles from Jack in Delray Beach. He still had the wartime letters she wrote him.

They are together again and last month celebrated the Tiger's 90th birthday. They need help getting around, but so what.

Ladies, don't give away your Shalimar.

There's nothing noble about declaring oneself out of the game, whatever the game is. My trainer at Gold's Gym, who works hard at getting 30-somethings off their rear ends, talks about a 74-year-old client who "kicks ass."

This is not a denial of age-related changes. The greatest runners don't win gold medals at 45. Some brain functions slow down with age. But a store of knowledge and firsthand experience are also valuable. Boomers can't throw balls as far as 25-year-olds? Neither can 6-year-olds.

Every age group brings something to the party. And for every generation, the party's not over till it's over.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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