This month I begin my year-long countdown to a milestone birthday. No, I haven't worked up the courage yet to write which milestone, but let's just say that I'm a Generation Xer who's awfully close to being a Baby Boomer. And as I near this new decade of my life, I'm feeling a kinship with my older friends in the Baby Boomer generation who are doing what they can to slow the aging process.
Overall, it's been great to follow the Baby Boomers throughout my life. Other than their drug “experimentation” in the 1960s and their fashion and disco missteps in the 1970s, they have rarely gone wrong enough for me to turn my back on them (although they came close with the disco fad). They are 78 million strong, the largest generation in our country's history. Their numbers have given them power — what business or politician wants this generation on their bad side? Women in that generation blazed trails in the business world so my generation of women had a wider path to follow. Men of that generation took a more active role in raising their children and doing housework than their fathers did. Civil rights increased under their watch and guidance.
Now, Baby Boomers face their “silver” years. The gray hairs have moved in along with the smile lines and the mid-section bulges. But Baby Boomers aren't aging without a fight. Unlike their parents, they were surrounded by fitness facilities for most of their lives, and they heard about the importance of exercise. Now, those who never before belonged to a gym are joining up with their gym-going brethren. Baby Boomers 55 years old and older are the fastest growing segment of new club members.
I doubt their interest in exercise will diminish as they grow older. Of adults 44 to 56 years old interested in active adult communities, 88 percent said they would be happier in retirement if they remained physically active, according to an International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) report.
That's especially heartening considering lifespans are lengthening. Baby Boomers may retire at 65, but now they may have 20 to 30 years of post retirement life to live. Most don't want to spend it dealing with health issues, especially if they could be prevented with a little exercise and sound nutrition.
Boomers aren't opposed to spending their wealth to fight aging. They account for $2 trillion each year in consumer spending. A wealthy population that doesn't want to grow old — smells like an opportunity for fitness facilities. Equipment manufacturers are getting into the act, making equipment with easier access and simpler displays. Health clubs also must jump in if they haven't already. Ninety-five percent of active aging businesses said that having a fitness or wellness center or a physical activity program targeting older adults attracted more residents or members, according to an ICAA report. Ninety-three percent said these programs helped retain their clients.
As children watch their grandparents remain active, it sends a signal that old age isn't about sitting on the porch watching the world go by. It's about being active and remaining as healthy as can be for as long as can be. That's a message that will change the way later generations age. A change for which we must once again thank the Baby Boomers.
So as I near my personal milestone, I will remember that millions of Boomers before me have survived the same birthday milestone as well as the encroaching crows feet, age spots, back pains, knee aches and other signs of an aging body, and they've done so with a mind towards healthy and active living ‘til their golden years. I think I'll take their cue and follow right behind them once again.