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U3A Writing: Baby, We're Booming - (Or Should That Be Blooming?)

Mary Basham takes a perceptive look at her “Baby Boomer’’ generation and concludes that these new members of the pensioner’ brigade will not conform to the perceived image of dotage. “More than ever we are pushing back the boundaries of advancing years and going for gold, not silver!’’

Being born a Baby Boomer has proved a double-edged sword for my generation. On the one hand we have gone through life breaking so many moulds they lay scattered around our feet as thick as daisies in a summer lawn. On the other hand, we seem to have engendered the green-eyed monster amongst both those younger and older than us.

What is it all about? Think post war first. There we were, too carefree to worry about whether we saw an orange before we were five. It was our parents, desperate for us not to miss out on the sunshine fruit, that dragged us off to queue outside the local greengrocer’s every time a shipment arrived. We didn’t worry a fig. We slurped back the thick stuff provided by the Welfare Clinic and were happy to get our quota of sunshine the natural way, running free in a country at peace.

While our parents marvelled at how they had survived the dark days of war, we soon got tired of those sentimental songs that had inspired them to keep going. Vera Lynn and her blue birds flew into the archives, to be replaced by the dulcet tone of crooners melting the airways as we emerged from our childhood. And they in turn took a back seat in the face of Bill Haley and his Comets, Elvis Presley and our homegrown sound- alikes. Music ruled OK.

So there we were hitting our teens, sporting itsy witsy gingham bikinis on wind blown British beaches, rocking around the clock to the ‘shock, horror’ of our elders as we showed our knickers beneath our flying circle skirts and clamouring for cosmetics that would have turned our grannies in their graves, except most were still alive to give us the benefit of their caustic comments first hand.

The expression ‘we never behaved like that in our day’ was so often on the lips of the older generation it became their mantra. Did we listen? Did we care? We were too busy getting to grips with the ‘Swinging Sixties’ and ‘Heaven Scent Seventies’ that it’s a wonder we even heard.

Liberation came thick and fast and from all directions. The Pill has been talked about as the great equalizer, giving girls as well as boys the chance to have their sex and get away with it. That might be the way it looks on the surface but strictly speaking what it did was to stop the guilt. Before the Pill most of us did ‘it’ anyway – afterwards we didn’t have to pretend any more that we were virgins. The taboo on pre-marital sex was well and truly thrown out with the empty pill packet.

We became the first generation who could go to university if we wanted to no matter, you didn’t have to be a Hooray Henry. Renting a property rated along with living with the in-laws, something you only did if you were forced by circumstances. For the first time it was expected that you would end up with a mortgage, own a car and takes the kids on holiday once a year. Blackpool and Great Yarmouth had been the Mecca for our mums and dads, we aimed for Benidorm and the Gran Canaria – and brought back the cine films to prove it!

During the 1980s and 90s we lapped it up, good jobs at the top of the tree, good wining and dining, good role models for keeping young and beautiful. Dynasty had a lot to answer for. At an age when our parents were happy to take a back seat and watch their children forging ahead, in many cases our children looked on enviously as the family home quadrupled in value and their own hopes of climbing the property ladder stalled on the lower rungs.

The biggest difference of all is just beginning to surface. As we collect our final salary pensions, enjoy our lump sums, downsize the family ‘mansion’ and fly off to savour
long spells in foreign parts, there is a cold truth dawning over the cruel horizon. Final salary pensions have bitten the dust for future generations. Our children will have to save, save, save from now until they retire in their late 60s or even 70s to have any sort of lifestyle equivalent to our own.

Can we help them? Of course we can and most of us do, but the biggest help of all would be for us to shuffle off this mortal coil and pass it all on to them – and none of us want to do that in a hurry! What is more, with annual gym membership amongst the more mature at an all time high, our stress levels reduced by opting out of the rat race, healthy diet advice coming at us right, left and centre, how to look ten years younger on our televisions and SUDOKO in our newspapers to keep our brains alert, the wait could prove lengthy. Joan Collins, Sean Connery and their ilk have tattooed the words ‘sex symbol and over 60’ in our subconscious with indelible ink.

Macmillan famously said during his premiership, “You’ve never had it so good.” Politicians are accused of many things, one of them being a manipulation of the truth, but that particular statesman was absolutely right about the Baby Boomer generation, wasn’t he?


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