Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Catch-22 of Aging Gracefully

Older Americans may find solace in David Brooks' report today on longitudinal studies "producing a rosier portrait of life after retirement. These studies don’t portray old age as surrender or even serenity. They portray it as a period of development..."

So much for Charles DeGaulle's famous aphorism, "Old age is a shipwreck," and Freud's assertion, "Old people are no longer educable.”

It's comforting to learn that we are getting "more outgoing, self-confident and warm with age," but Brooks is only leading us up to a grim Catch-22--we are stealing our happiness at the financial expense of our grandchildren: "the federal government now spends $7 on the elderly for each $1 it spends on children."

Overlooking the fact that most of that comes from a lifetime of Social Security paycheck deductions, the middle-aged Brooks asserts: "Only the old can lead a generativity revolution--millions of people demanding changes in health care spending and the retirement age to make life better for their grandchildren."

As an example of the stirrings of such a movement, Brooks cites Tea Party enthusiasts as a symptom of "the only way the U.S. is going to avoid an economic crisis...if the oldsters take it upon themselves to arise and force change."

When Sarah Palin addresses their rally, she may want to switch her emphasis from scaring the Tea Partyers about government death panels and rouse them to enlisting on financial suicide missions on behalf of their endangered heirs.

With income on retirees' savings down to next-to-nothing to bail out the banks, it won't be a big step to renouncing all the rest in the cause of generativity.

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