Sexagenarians in the Library – by Charlotte Canelli

Read Charlotte Canelli’s column in the May 18 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud. Podcasts are archived on the Voices from the Library page of the library website.

There’s a sexagenarian in the library director’s office this week.

Ah, let me define. I was born in May, 1952 and I am now a person who is 60 years old. A sexagenarian, then, is between the ages of 60 and 70. Expanding on that definition, I am a person being in the 7th decade her life.

I celebrated with much fanfare last week and I am happy to have made it to 60. But seventh decade? Yikes, that sounds a bit too close to eight, eighty or four score. But then that would be an octogenarian, and that I am not. I’ve got a score to go, thank you.

The Baby Boomer generation has certainly grown up. Some are nearing fifty and some are nearly seventy. That puts me smack in the middle with the rest.

By definition, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a Baby Boomer is one born between 1946 (the first year after the end of World War II) and 1965. Some Boomers watched their fathers leave for the Korean War. Others watched them leave for Vietnam. Many happily saw them return.

Those first to grow up in the Boomer generation began their big-city work careers wearing skinny ties and wingtips, pillbox hats and gloves reminiscent of those Mad Men. But the majority of us protested a war, burned flags (and bras) and fell in love with the music of the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and James Taylor. Oh, and the Monkees, of course.

Many of us began our school lives learning about air raids and the Cold War. As adults, some with children of our own, we watched the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union fall. Today we know to expect everything and nothing. We are a generation of amazing cultural adventures and change.

Seventy-six million children were born in that twenty-year Boomer span. According to Wikipedia, Baby Boomers “now control over 80% of personal financial assets and more than 50% of discretionary spending power. They are responsible for more than half of all consumer spending, buy 77% of all prescription drugs, 61% of over-the-counter medication and 80% of all leisure travel.” Some of them will actually be lucky enough to travel extensively, especially those who planned their retirement well. “The Boomer’s Guide to Going Abroad to Travel, Live, Give, Learn” (2011) by Doris Gallan explores opportunities to learn and volunteer in places around the world and that might be just the ticket for Boomers who have the money and the time.

Others will want to stay at home and find new things to do in the reality of retirement and “When Every Day is Saturday: The Retirement Guide for Boomers” (2010) addresses many of those realistic issues. And of course, while many Boomers will be enjoying that active lifestyle at home as empty-nesters (some with children scattered around the globe) they might bring new pets into our lives again or for the first time. They should read “The 50+ Dog Owner: Complete Dog Parenting for Baby Boomers and Beyond” (2010) by Mary Jane Checci.

However, not all of us will retire at the ‘retirement age’ of 65. According to surveys compiled by the 2011 Associated Press and LifeGoesStrong.com, 60% of Boomers lost value in investments, some for the first time in their lives, because of the recent economic crisis. 42% are now delaying retirement and 25% claim they will never retire but continue to work. In fact, many of us will be working until we are septuagenarians and well into that eight decade. Those thinking about a second career can read “Boomer Preneurs: How Baby Boomers Can Start Their Own Business, Make Money, and Enjoy Life” (2010) by M.B. Izard or “The AARP Crash Course in Finding the Work You Love: The Essential Guide to Reinventing Your Life” (2008) by Samuel Greengard.

If you are a Boomer who plans to stay physically healthy you might want to read “The Roadmap to 100: The Breakthrough Science of Living a Long and Healthy Life” (2010) by Walter M. Bortz, II and Randall Stickrod or “The Baby Boomer Diet: Body Ecology’s Guide to Growing Younger” (2011) by Donna Gates. If you’d like to add mental healthy to that prescription, read “Brain Power: Improve Your Mind As You Age” (2012) by Michael J. Gelb and Kelly Howell.

In 2029, the last of the Baby Boomers turn 65 years old. Many of them will be well over 65. By 2020, 135,000 Americans will be 100 years old or older. By 2050, that number will be 600,000. This might actually be a very good time to give your children, or grandchildren, something to read such as “How To Clean Out Your Parent’s Estate in 30 Days or Less: A Solutions-Based Guide to Emptying the Home Without Losing Your Mind” (2011) by Julie Hall.

You can read about the hopes, dreams and challenges of the now-all-grown-up Boomer generation and the aging of the American population in “One Nation Under AARP: The Fight Over Medicare, Social Security and America’s Future” (2011) by Frederick R. Lynch. Or, you can appreciate the camaraderie in “Aging Together: Dementia, Friendship, and Flourishing Communities” (2011) by Susan McFadden. It’s no wonder, then, that at a recent conference I was told to expect this population of the U.S. citizens to expect more out of their libraries in programming and services. Boomers will want to meet other people, expand their minds, stay healthy and meet new people. After all, we were a generation who broke new ground well over a half century ago.

If you would like to reserve any of these titles please call the Reference or Information desks of the library, 781-769-0200, or reserve them in the Minuteman Library catalog.

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