Is Youth Wasted on the Young? Or is Age Wasted on the Old?

Part of the title of this blog is a quote by George B. Shaw.  It is one of those simple “truths” we accept without much scrutiny.  We of the “older” generation like to use this phrase to blame and condemn the “younger” folks for the problems of the world.  Each generation that follows the next generation is somehow not quite up to the standards of the prior generation.  Thus, kids today are lazy and part of the “Entitlement” generation.  The Entitlement Generation (as all of us older folks know) want things easy and expect instant rewards without the hard work that characterized the efforts of their elders.   But what if the reverse was true?  What if “Age Was Wasted on the Old?”

Old people wasting their lives playing Pickle Ball, shooting endless rounds of golf and sitting around collecting retirement funds don’t really seem to add too much to the world.  Older people take up more of the health care dollars spent in this country.  Older people produce fewer new and innovative products.  Older people are more resistant to change and new ideas.  Older people are in a disproportionate number of accidents.  Older people are more fearful and become more and more conservative creating less willingness to adapt to needed changes in the political and economic environments.

So many older people, they just sit around all day long and they don’t get any exercise. Their muscles atrophy, and they lose their strength, their energy and vitality by inactivity. – Jack LaLanne

How are we going to pay for all the health care needs of the baby boom generation?  According to some reports, baby boomers will drain the Medicare Program and cause it to go bankrupt.

Between 2010 and 2040, median annual real out-of-pocket costs for Americans age 65 and older will more than double in constant 2008 dollars, from about $2,600 to about $6,200. Nearly 1 in 10 older adults will spend more than $14,000 per year on health care in 2040.

Will Health Care Costs Bankrupt Aging Boomers?

 I suppose much of the problem of the “older” generation could be cured by the solution given in the movie Soylent Green?  I wonder how many of you remember this old movie starring Charlton Heston of Moses and NRA fame and Edward G. Robinson.  The 1973 film depicts an investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and a hot climate due to the greenhouse effect.  Much of the population survives on processed food rations, including “Soylent Green”.   One might say looking at the list of future problems the denizens in this film faced that it was more than prophetic.  Pollution, global warming, depleted resources, poverty and dying oceans all echo headlines we see every day.

In this future, “old” folks are processed into a food staple called Soylent Green when they reach a certain age.  They then contribute to the health of the society in two ways:  Less use of resources when they are “terminated” and they “give back” as a tasty and nutritious food with all of the needed amino acids.   It is a wonder that none of our politicians today have glommed on this idea as a solution to the Medicare and health crisis facing this country.  I suppose it might have something to do with the lack of votes among the elderly this idea would generate for any politician bold enough to suggest it.  The political clout of the elderly and the AARP is probably only second to the political clout of the NRA and the pro-attack rifle crowd.  Maybe that’s why guns are growing in this country?  Too many baby boomers saw Soylent Green and want to be sure that no one turns them into green spinach.  My good friend told me last night that his gun group is frustrated because the gun stores are sold out of bullets and magazines.  He says you can’t find any useful items in the gun shops these days.  Is it all Obama’s fault for suggesting new gun laws?  Actually, with gun sales doing so well, I wonder if Obama is not actually on the payroll of Smith and Wesson.  Take a look at the following stock chart to see how well Smith and Wesson have been doing this past year:

chart[1]

Sorry, I digressed there a bit.  Let me return to the point.  We often blame others and fail to see the problems that we create.  The problems of today are blamed on a generation that was not even born when the etiology of these problems was first sown.  Problems we face today have their roots in decisions and choices made long before the Generation X’s or Generation Millennium’s were conceived.  The young have been reviled and blamed since the time of Socrates and probably even earlier.  We have a tendency to separate generations as though they were black and white and we ignore the overlaps and myriad nuances that culture, ethnicity and class play on the outcomes.  As a teacher who has been in middle schools, high schools and colleges all within the last 3 years, I can attest to the vast differences in the attitudes and preferences shown by students.  The diversity in this country is much greater than anything we have ever experienced in our 250 year history.  It is undoubtedly going to increase as the world becomes ever yet more mobile and fragmented.  Blaming the young and failure to see the young with anything other than a set of biased lens creates a dangerous illusion.  It leads to a failure to see the true sources and causes of the problems that are facing us today.  Only by accepting responsibility and acting as one nation, old and young can we solve the crises that come to each new generation.

Ok, time for questions:

Is age wasted on the Old?  Should growing old be saved for the young?  Do we grow too conservative as we age?  Are we too afraid of taking risks?  Do we blame everyone else except ourselves for the world’s problems?  How do we tap into the strengths of all generations to solve the problems of today?  How do we create a world that will be better for future generations?
Life is just beginning.

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