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The Flight of the Baby Boomers



Look up "baby boomers" on any Web site and view the plethora of negative articles.

"Crisis Coming for the BBs." " Boomers in Serious Denial. Too Many, Too Late." And a favorite — How Fast Can We Obliterate an Entire Generation?

Excuse me (us.) The only characteristic we boomers have in common is a birth date between 1946 and 1964. Because there are so many, we have shared crowded classrooms, group therapy sessions, and The Beatles out of necessity, not choice. Our jammed address books have turned into PDAs to ease the weight of carrying around those little black books the size of "War and Peace. "We never seized credit for landing on the moon, and we don't deserve the blame for Vietnam. The World War II Generation took charge of both events.

We understand our numbers are great, so we have stuck together. Years ago, we bonded in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury District wearing our different tie-dyed T-shirts to give us a flicker of individuality. The drugs allowed us to escape our throngs and hear the music. Then we were tagged hippies.

But we grew, took on college and the corporate world, and couldn't help but make a difference. In many cases that meant bigger pay checks, and a new title, yuppies.

Today one of us turns 50 every 7.6 seconds. By 2023 we will be one of every five Americans. Ironically, that's the percentage of elders living in Florida now. Give us until 2030, let us spread our aging bodies around the continents, and we'll account for 1 billion citizens. One in every eight people will be eligible for the Shady Acres World Retirement Community. Soon the over 65-plus group will even outnumber children under 5 on a world basis. And we will all be called abbies aging baby boomers, by the X and Y generations who follow us.

Clustering of this general population is not a problem the boomers created. This year, half of all the people over 65 in this country live in nine states, led by California, Florida and New York. Close to 60 percent of the population resides in coastal areas in only 17 percent of the nation's contiguous land area. Natural resources in these states are dwindling at a rapid rate.

The good news is that before the government steps in to offer the baby boomers incentives to retire to the 41 less populated states, these boomers, once so tribe-oriented, are spreading out across the U.S., and in some cases the world, on their own.

In a projected 2030 census, seniors will still choose Florida as their No.1 destination. No surprise. Retiring under a palm tree, without a snow shovel, makes perfect sense — if always awaiting the Pied Piper's call to evacuate whenever a strong hurricane bears down doesn't upset the metabolism.

The predictability ends here.

Second settlement choice for boomers is Maine (only 0 .6 percent under Florida), the other end of I-95. Groups of elders huddling under snow-covered pine trees next to a Saltbox, that's Maine. Proximity to the Canadian border is a big plus whenever those prescriptions are due.

Many boomers will heed the warnings about coastal living and move inland. Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana are the third, fourth and fifth community choices from the generation that grew up on "The Lone Ranger" television shows. Also, if gas prices remain astronomical in 2030, these states will provide alternatives in transportation. Fuel costs: a bag of oats.

Other top states for boomers include: North Dakota, West Virginia, Vermont, Delaware and South Dakota. For those of us growing up in bedrooms with multiple bunks, "Space" is a NASA program, not the wide open vistas of the west. We change as we discover.

We "abbies" will avoid Utah in 2030, the state to be least affected by baby boomers.

Obviously the Mormon Tabernacle Choir doesn't attract the Rolling Stone crowd. Apparently, neither does polygamy.

And we will shun Virginia as well. In 36th place, we seniors will overlook her magnolias, Confederate history, and proximity to national airports, possibly because we want to write our own history, in our own time.

Where we settle, what we do in those retirement years, will still garner negative press, because we will be the generation to break the back of the present Social Security system and to throw at least a medium-sized wrench into the Medicare program. What the media has to understand is that this is not done with malicious intent. It's all about our great numbers eating away at an old system that lacks a built-in growth factor.

And what we fracture, we rebuild. That's what is forgotten. It will be the boomers who will search out the solution for the Social Security limitations, because we will be immediately affected by any shutdown.

If we boomers are now regarded as flies in the ointment of society, we will finish our years as liberators of a broken national system and throw in a couple of pluses: a more evenly populated country and a renewal of natural resources.

At that point we deserve a positive nickname. S

Beth Morelli is a Richmond freelance writer and a proud baby boomer.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.


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