Baby boomers got a shot of positive reenforcement when Bill Clinton proudly stated on his 60th birthday that 60 was the new 40. The media immediately picked up on the fountain of youth statement and did a slew of stories about how a mixture of Botox, Viagra, health club memberships and low fat diets would turn someone who was aging gracefully into a new person with unlimited opportunities and that youthful drive.
Needless to say, many baby boomers bought into the hype as advertisers had a field day selling the promise of eternal youth ( or at least the appearance of eternal youth) to a generation not quite ready to practice the sedentary lifestyle. Images of smiling gray hairs golfing in Hawaii, dancing the tango in Paris, driving around in fast cars and oh yes sitting in those two bath tubs looking at the sunset after taking a Cialis pil filled the commercial space.
Now for some, 60 may be the new 40, but I have met too many of my generation ( including some close friends) who were told to pack up their things and leave the office for no other reason than they had turned 60. In fact new data from the government shows that age discrimination claims have risen nearly 20% in the past year. Regional offices of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission are now turning their attention from sex and race discrimination to age bias cases. There is also a mound of anecdotal evidence of baby boomers with stellar resumes who don’t want to golf in Hawaii or tango in Paris finding it difficult to find a job after they have been let go. It seems that employers value youth over experience and see the old timers as lacking “modern” skills or simply they are perceived as stuck in their ways.
The employment problems facing baby boomers have been compounded by the other fallacy of the 60 is the new 40 mantra, which is that all those 401Ks will continue to grow and provide the cushion necessary to live the Bill Clinton lifestyle. Well the last year has proven that the money put aside for a happy and healthy retirement is disappearing as fast as you can say bear market. 60 plus Americans now need another job to maintain their middle class status, but what they are finding is that the business world has been taken over by the real 40 year olds.
Of course Bill Clinton and those at the top of the professional food chain can talk about 60 being the new 40 since they will always have a network of buddies who value their name and their expertise. But those who were middle managers and certainly all working class laborers find that the skills, knowledge and common sense they honed to perfection after years of hard work have been devalued. As the saying goes, ” Ah, to be young again.”