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Old just isn't a word in baby boomer vocabulary

Ina Jaffe

NPR

Ina Jaffe

Not feeling as old as your chronological age says you should be feeling? Join the crowd. The same baby-booming generation that blazed the trail for civil rights issues decades ago is now blazing the trail for what old age should feel like.

It wasn't that long ago that a dream retirement meant buying a home in a 55+ community, tooting around the neighborhood in a golf court, hanging with people your own age, relaxing, playing cards and shuffleboard until the end comes.

End?!?! What end?

The coming of age 65 and its consequential cutting ties with a lifelong career now is the process of opening a door, not closing one. And, as it approaches, people are starting to plan for where that door will lead.

The Institute for the Ages, a Sarasota think-tank whose mission includes connecting innovators with older adults and promoting the perspective that older people are an untapped asset, held its seventh annual International Conference on Positive Aging earlier this month at the Hyatt Regency.

Some 375 people attended the four-day event, 60 percent of whom came from out of town, said institute spokeswoman Michelle Bauer. Many work, as the institute does, to help older adults navigate the second phase of life.

Ina Jaffe, 65, who covers the aging beat for National Public Radio, gave the keynote dinner speech. She played a couple of pieces she has reported: one on a 71-year-old midwife in Fort Collins, Colo., and another on a blog called Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen, 31, who says he "roams the streets of New York looking for the most stylish and creative older folks."

In a phone conversation before the conference, Jaffe said that when NPR approached her about the aging beat, she knew she could walk out the door anywhere with a microphone in her hand and get a good story and — she added kiddingly but not kiddingly — be lied to a lot less. (She had been covering politics).

Her friends' reactions fell into three categories.

Some said, "Oh, you're going to write about me."

Others, in denial about their age, said, "Oh, you're going to write about my parents."

And even others said, "Won't that be depressing?"

"Only if you think of aging as decline, disability and loss," Jaffe said.

That's certainly not how she looks at it. "Saying I'm covering aging is like saying I'm covering people."

Baby boomers are transforming aging, she said. "People are living longer, staying healthy longer. There's a different attitude toward retirement. Nobody expects to be retiring at 60, and they used to want to retire early."

"Baby boomers never intended to get old," Jaffe said.

" 'Want me to get old?' they say. 'Make me.' "

Patti Ewald can be reached at pewald@tampabay.com.

ON THE AGING BEAT

Ina Jaffe does periodic reports on aging that can be heard on NPR stations across the country, including WUSF-FM 89.7 in Tampa Bay. You can listen to the story about the 71-year-old Colorado midwife at tinyurl.com/midwifetimes and the story about the hunt for stylish older women at tinyurl.com/stylishtimes.

Old just isn't a word in baby boomer vocabulary 02/24/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 24, 2014 1:18pm]
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