Paul and I are considered as the “end” of the Baby Boomer era. We were born in 1961 and 1962 respectively. The beginning of the Baby Boomer era started in 1946 after World War II when a steady increase in birth rates continued for almost 20 years. 76 million people are considered Baby Boomers.
There has been a lot of attention given to the health of the social security system and Medicare with the aging of these 70 million people. But how much attention is being given to the people’s actual health?
As I read about the characteristics of the Baby Boomer generation, I find that the general description of Baby Boomers is fairly complimentary: We see ourselves as trail blazers and pioneers. We broke rules but redefined values. We took much for granted and expected more. We vowed to be forever young. Although neither Paul nor I were in the “hippie” generation (the earlier boomers), I think we both secretly wishwe had been born during that time. It sounded fun, exciting and free.
We are one of the most active and selfless generations ever. Our continual fight against injustice created the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and much more.We still seek social justice but have begun to realize that justice is also defined by self-control, self-discipline and social responsibility. Today, when Americans are the heaviest—70% of Baby Boomers are considered overweight or obese which is the cause of many of the other health maladies being experienced such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, etc. – We must take responsibility.
Two-thirds of boomers have made at least one dietary adjustment to lose weight, and more than half to reduce cholesterol levels. Overall, this generation seems better informed about the ins and outs of nutritional health than its predecessors.
However, by 2030, about 60 percent of boomers will experience more than one chronic health condition [source: American Hospital Association]. As it is, 62 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 currently have at least one chronic condition as a result of obesity (such as high cholesterol or heart disease) [source: Trust for America’s Health]. It’s estimated that by 2030, around 25 percent of boomers will have diabetes [source: American Hospital Association].
“Despite their longer life expectancy over previous generations, U.S. baby boomers have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability, and lower self-rated health than members of the previous generation at the same age,” wrote the authors of a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine. “On a positive note, baby boomers are less likely to smoke cigarettes and experience lower rates of emphysema and heart attacks than the previous generation.”
“The message here is that we may not be the healthiest generation,” said Dr. Dana E. King, a professor of medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine and lead author of their study. “And I think this may be a wake-up call to the baby boomers to change their lifestyles for the better and try to delay the kind of diseases and disabilities that seem to be coming at a higher rate.”
However, despite being better educated and having easier access to information about health matters, most boomers believe their physical well-being – especially as they age – is pretty much out of their control, according to a study by Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement, a financial consulting group. There is something “uncharacteristically fatalistic” about this generation when it comes to health issues, the study found. Most seem to think what will happen to them is largely predetermined by their genetic make-up and/or to what extent they can afford advanced medical care.
We know that the driving nature of the Baby Boomers that created real change through the last 40 years, is needed now to help these well educated and well-informed Baby Boomers to see that their health isnow a social concern for all.
No longer can we blame anyone or anything but ourselves for our physical conditions.
“In true Baby Boomer style, they will probably do these things in a new way,” predicts Tom Valeo who writes for WebMD. Since they are bound to live longer than past generations, they will have to figure out how to make this extended longevity work for them. The question is, will those years be vigorous and healthy, or will baby boomers sink into the pain and disability of chronic disease?
Fortunately, much can be done to change the dismal picture that seems to be hanging out there. Whether we introduce more exercise, change our eating habits, reduce our stress or hopefully, all of the above, these will soon be habit-forming tendencies that will quickly change the landscape of our future and the future of our country. Imagine leaving a legacy that will keep our children and grandchildren from going broke!!
Many of you reading this today were born between 1946 and 1964. You have witnessed the birth of the microwave, TV dinners, cell phones and computers. Our generation has the capacity to create extraordinary experiences. Won’t you join us as we attempt to reach the 70 million other boomers so that together, we can make what will likely be the greatest positive impact on society—taking control of our health?