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We Boomers Are Not Prepared To Go Gently Into That Good Night. Oh No!

26/10/2016 17:25
Caiaimage via Getty Images

I heard a comic on Radio 4 recently say "70 is the New 50." I suspect - no, I know - he was being satirical, but somewhere someone is saying it seriously because they believe 70 really is the New 50.

How do I know that? Because, around 15 years ago, 50 was the New 30; then 60 was the New 40 or the New 50 (you choose). And now, 70 is the New 50. You can probably see a pattern emerging here: as we Baby-boomers (i.e. those of us born between 1945 and 1955) hit a new milestone birthday and arrive at a new decade, that decade becomes The New 30, The New 40 or The New 50.

All of these assertions about 50 being the New 30; 60 the New 40, etc, have been backed up with a tranche of images and stories. Frequently these feature women of 55 or 60 looking far better and hotter than a callow reporter or a 20-something sub-editor expects them to look. This is because his or her role model for An Older Woman is his or her gran, who is 91, is a touch overweight and wears BHS knitwear...

There are a number of other explanations for this "X is The New Y" phenomenon, in addition to the one posited above - that all those reporters, subs and columnists are young and have a tendency to lump together everyone aged over 50 into an amorphous group labelled "old" which is possibly how we Boomers, who in the main voted "Stay" at the Brexit referendum, got hammered along with the real culprits, who were the generation above us - i.e those in their late 70s, 80s and 90s.

Another, possible explanation, is that the subs, columnists and desk editors are themselves Boomers, and anxious to demonstrate their continuing value and that of an entire generation by extrapolating from the exploits of a specific 61-year-old that 60 is the New 12, or whatever.

However, a more likely explanation is that we Boomers are in a constant state of denial and/or surprise that we are getting old.

We were The Who's "My Generation" and the generation Dylan was singing about in "The Times They Are A Changin'"; we were Steve Jobs and Richard Branson; we were Mick Jagger and Roger Daltry; we were Meryl Streep and Charlotte Rampling. We were the Permissive Society and The Pill; we were the Moon Landing, and the end of Polio, TB and Smallpox... We feel as if we are still across it all and into it but we also know the Gen-Xers (and, indeed, our own kids) are snapping at our heels and it scares us. But we are not prepared to go gently into that good night... Oh no; we are going very reluctantly and letting everyone know we are still around doing important stuff which, of course, we are... As co-founder of a fashion website for over-50s women, I absolutely know I am.

Indeed, in 10 years' time, expect headlines saying 80 is the New 40, and in 20 years' time, if we're still breathing (and we probably will be because we are also the generation which pioneered fitness as a lifestyle choice rather than as the by-product of simply living) expect headlines saying "90 is the New 50."

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