Ok, Boomer by
50
(66 Stories)

Prompted By Ageism

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I hate to be called hon or dear or even ma’am. When asked if I want help with putting my groceries in the car, I always refuse. I still like wearing my jeans with the stylish hole in the knee and statement t-shirts. And yet. Ten years ago, I fell walking with my young (at that time) granddaughters near their school but refused the help of a man passing by. A few months ago, I fell walking to a class for seniors at Northwestern University and complained, when my friend offered me a hand to get up, that the students rushed by without any offer of help.

Young people are using the phrase OK, boomer to indicate disdain for folks of my generation.

That’s when it hit me that I was officially old. I was invisible to the college students. When I go to weddings, I no longer have to obsess over what to wear. I will be at the old folks’ table furthest from the music (thank you for that) and no one will be looking to see if I am wearing stylish shoes. Any basic black outfit will do. I get it. My healthiest days are in my rearview mirror. There’s a lot more doctoring and a lot less visibility after crossing that Rubicon of age seventy.

Recently, my daughter asked me how we should celebrate my upcoming birthday in September. Why do we need to do anything special, I asked? Because it’s a special birthday was the answer. Oh yeah, I’ll be turning 75. I remember as if it were yesterday planning a party for my mother’s 75th birthday. She had just become the great-grandmother of my twin granddaughters and happily shared her celebration with one for them as well. She was a Bubbe now, but she looked great and didn’t seem terribly old to me.

Mom at her 75th birthday party

But the next sixteen years were not as kind to her. There were joys as she got to attend the weddings of three more grandchildren and hold seven more great-grandkids. But as my father’s health declined and he became less able to walk well, their world started to shrink. The stairs in the three-floor condo they loved became increasingly challenging. Then my father died and she was alone for the first time in her life. Still, after convincing her to move into a senior living apartment, Mom had three years in which she made new friends, participated in many activities, and surprised us with her independence and ability to reinvent her life. I could do a lot worse in my life than following her example.

Part of the aging process is letting go. As I watch my friends leave their homes to move into elevator buildings and senior living apartments, I wonder how much longer we should hang on to our 108-year-old home in which we have lived for almost 45 years. When we bought it, we had young kids and wondered when the older residents on the block would sell their homes to young families so our kids could have more playmates. Now, we are those older folks not wanting to leave a house that is far too big for two people. We have room for our kids from out of town to stay with us, and room to host the large parties and family gatherings we have held over these many years. But we don’t have the energy to do this much longer. So yes, there is downsizing in our near future.

At some point after that 75th birthday party, my mother stopped coloring her hair. It was a shocking transformation. While she still looked great for a woman in her eighties, she also started to look her age. I’m not ready to go there yet, but some of my friends have. They look lovely but I can’t picture myself that way.

Mom and my granddaughter at her 90th birthday

I think I get why those college students didn’t see me when I fell. Apparently, being a boomer makes one a target for contempt these days. Young people are using the phrase OK, boomer to indicate disdain for folks of my generation. I’m sure my granddaughter sees OK, boomer on TikTok all of the time. By the way, aren’t you impressed that someone my age knows about TikTok? Nevertheless, kids are telling us that we were totally wrong about most everything. Boomer has evolved from being cool to become a dirty word associated with ageism. Our supposed wisdom doesn’t mean much to the young generation that coined this phrase. We are the ones responsible for climate change, endless wars, and economic injustice. On top of that, I was even trolling their college campus.

I remember thinking my generation would fix the world. Now I fear our collective knowledge and expertise have made it a pretty bad place for kids who are about to enter adulthood. Perhaps it’s time to act my age and turn to younger generations for guidance. Mayor Pete, anyone?

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real and join my Facebook community.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. First I have to say that your mother looked fantastic at 75 AND 90! Second, YES to Mayor Pete…if only he could beat you-know-who and I’m just afraid he can’t. And third, keep on rocking those ripped jeans and T-shirts, girl! (Is “girl” okay in this context? LOL!)

    I actually suggested OK Boomer as a prompt but it looks like we’re covering it here this week…and boy, do we have stories! I think most “isms” boil down to respect, and semantics…as they often work both ways, which takes me back to respect. I love what Marian wrote about “modern elders.” R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

  2. Marian says:

    Your mom looks lovely, Laurie, and I’m glad she could enjoy her later years. It’s challenging to navigate the world, now, and Dick and I also live in a large house and are the grandma and grandpa of our neighborhood. We’d move but if we want to stay in the Silicon Valley, it’s very difficult to find a place without stairs. You go, Mayor Pete. He seems to have learned from our generation and has a freshness that is very appealing.

  3. I get it Laurie!
    And I’d love to see a Mayor Pete in the White House – if not in my lifetime, some time soon!

  4. Laurie
    I started a piece for this prompt with the working title, Boomer, OK? Ultimately I liked nothing about it but the title, which is why you’ll see no story from me this week. We Boomers are OK. Not any more than the Silent Generation was at an equivalent age and no more so that Gen X Y Z Millennial will be when they get here. As yet I have not been the recipient of an OK Boomer gibe, but I’m ready with my response: the one thing that differentiates ageism from every other ism is the fact that each and every one of us will experience. Other than those die prematurely. So, my young friend, pick your poison.
    As to “acting your age”: emphasis that it’s YOUR age. You get to handle it anyway you please. And without apology. With that I’ll dismount my soapbox.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Tom. You are right about time being the great equalizer. It’s still difficult to see myself as old as I am. In my mind, it’s one thing. In my sometimes aching body and in the mirror, I see my mother.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    Laurie, I agree with the others, your mom looked great at 75 and 90 and I’m impressed with how well she handled those years alone. I hope I do as well. I totally understand your feelings at the current moment. We, too, are still in our large house. My husband would like to down-size, but I won’t hear of it. I like the space and it is mostly on one floor, except for the garage, so I do have to climb steps to bring in groceries. I am having lots of aches and pains these days, but I fight through them. I don’t want to slow down.

    But I agree, it would be nice to see a breath of fresh air in our politics. We are not leaving the world a better place for our children, I fear.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      We have 3 floors in our house, plus a basement, so lots of stairs. We almost never go to the top floor guest room (former kids’ playroom). So far, we can handle the stairs but we are one fall away from disaster (no first floor bedroom or bath). So we look. As far as the world we are leaving our kids and grandkids, it makes me sad. Once, we had such high hopes and ideals.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Laurie, as I go through the stories this week, it is like we are all writing the same story. Which is hardly surprising when you consider the prompt and our demographic similarities, but I really love how you put it all — especially the tough stuff. Thank you! Guess we didn’t fix the world, did we Boomer?

  7. Suzy says:

    Laurie, I love this story! I had never heard the phrase OK Boomer until you and Marian told me about it. I also, like Tom, tried to write a piece for this prompt but didn’t like it. So we’ll see if I get hit with inspiration later on. But I agree with what everyone else said about your story -nice job! And great pics of your mother! Thanks, as always, for your wisdom!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Suzy. I struggled with this prompt so I’m glad you like how it turned out. Like you, I didn’t know OK, Boomer was a thing until I ran across a story in the Washington Post when I was thinking about the prompt. It made sense to me because boomers are a huge generation moving into retirement while younger generations have to worry about supporting us with their taxes, etc. I think we were lucky to have grown up in a time of relative prosperity and a growing middle class. On the other hand, I want to think we tried our best to create a world that was more just. It’s hard to accept responsibility for the mess of a world we are leaving for our kids and younger generations.

  8. Bravo, Laurie, for so beautifully expressing what so many of us feel.

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