There was recently an article in “National Geographic” about how most “advanced” societies are aging. This is true especially in Japan, the “oldest” society, but it’s true throughout much of Europe and definitely in these United States.

It was inevitable. I remember when I was young and we were officially defined not only as the “Baby Boom” generation, but also as the largest generation to ever hit the planet. I remember pointing out how we would all get old at the same time. If my generation was the top of the sine wave, we would still be at the top of the sine wave when we turned 70, 80, 90 …

Garry and I have both already exceeded the lives we expected to live and while we have the aches and pains and issues of oldness, we aren’t old in the way our parent got old. Our parents got old and wore “old people clothing.” They did “old people things.” We wear jeans and tee shirts and while a proportion of us are technologically challenged, many of us are managing very well, even if we don’t know everything we used to know. I’m far more agile — technologically-speaking — than my granddaughter. She grew up with surrounded by technobabble. My generation had to learn all this to do our jobs and because we were curious and interested. To my granddaughter, though, it was like electricity was to us. Press the button. It works. What more do you need to know?

Technology is not the problem. The problem is because how old our country and our world have become, young people don’t feel included. They don’t feel they have any say in their future.

They are right. I don’t feel I have any say in my future either.

We may not “officially” live in an autocracy, but it sure as hell feels like one. I can’t remember the last time I felt like anything I did was going to actually change anything for good or ill.

You don’t generally hear the word “gerontocracy” applied to the United States, but there’s an argument that we are one, at least now. President Joe Biden is 80, already the oldest man ever to serve as President of the United States, and if he wins reelection he will be 82 at the time of his second inauguration. Donald Trump, the man he defeated, was 74, older than Ronald Reagan at the time of his own reelection in 1984 at the age of 73. Trump, who is running against Biden, would be 78 if he wins his bid for a second non-consecutive term. The other big name in the 2024 Presidential race is (again) Bernie Sanders, a year older than Biden at 81. Despite having three Presidents now from the Baby Boom generation–Clinton, Bush II and Trump, all born in 1946–the fact that all the top contenders for 2024 are either over 80 or pushing it, and the fact that we replaced a Boomer with a President from the previous generation (Biden was born during World War II), seems to indicate that, far from embracing fresh ideas from younger generations, we are actually regressing, reaching even farther into our past and sealing the door even more tightly against the inevitable coming of younger leaders. Our generational trajectory is beginning to resemble the Soviet Union’s in its final years.

Shawn Munger – Gerontocracy and the fall of nations.

Shawn has said this better than I can, but he’s an historian after all. If you click on his name and the title of his post, you can read it.

I don’t know what, if anything, we can do about anything anymore. Clearly the will of the people, the desire of the majority of its citizens no longer has any effect on the people we supposedly elected. I’m pretty sure that, other than the president and our local senators, I didn’t elect those people. Not any of them nor would I.

I love what Biden is trying to do, but I think he IS too old to be president. We need younger leaders. We need younger ideas. My generation is passing away. More people I used to know are dead than alive. It’s not that I don’t enjoy living because I do. It’s just that I recognize when the time has come to move on.

Younger people need to be in control and I hope I live to see them take charge. I hope something changes and it matters. Demoralizing though life on earth has become, I always keep a little flame of hope burning somewhere. It’s as good as I can do these days.

Categories: #American-history, Anecdote, Getting old

Tags: , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. We can have both – age/wisdom and youth/energy – it’s a great combo.


  2. In many ancient societies/cultures it was the Elders who ruled – or at the very least were the respected counsellors.
    Age affects all of us individually/differently, of course. To some it seems to mean absolutely nothing – they go right to the end as ‘sharp as a pin’.
    I can’t say most of us are us are like that, but the value of WISDOM cannot be underscored. And at this moment we could sure use a pile of that.


    • I think what we need is a combination of generations. We need young people whose concerns are not always the same as for elders. We need people in the middle — because they are often the people doing the hardest work. And we need elders who are wise.

      Unfortunately, currently we have a dearth of young ones, most of the middle ones seem to be on the far right fringes and whatever they are thinking, it isn’t what most “real” people are thinking. The elders, on the whole, are performing better than the young ones. That may be a fluke of current history. I really don’t know. But at least most of them (minus some others who I do not care to name) seem more or less sane and appear to be living on the same planet as me and mine.

      The problem with elders is that they ARE elders. They might live another 20 years, but then again are we really counting on 95-year-olds to manage the nation? As I get older, I find it difficult enough to manage our very local family finances. Short-term memory gets ever shorter and learning new things gets a bit harder with each passing month.

      I agree that we need wisdom, but we also need energy and new ideas. We really need all of it. At least Biden, old as he is, has as his backup team a variety of people of various ages. That’s comforting in stressful times.


  3. In a way, I am glad that I might not be around to see what happens next… I just hope someone somewhere can sort out all the mess!


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