I am putting together a summary of a book I am starting to write and I’m inviting ChangingAging readers into the process. Here is the opening to the overview.
The people who were born after World War II, the people we have long called the “Baby Boomers,” have exercised an extraordinary influence over American society. During the fifties, their overwhelming numbers led Gerber to introduce baby-sized portions of pre-cooked meats and vegetables. As mobile teenagers they developed a taste for fast food that transformed a single California hamburger stand into the global McDonalds corporation. When, as adults, they decided to lose some extra pounds jogging became a national craze and an Oregon sneaker company named Nike joined the Fortune 500. Now, the Post War generation, is embracing social media on a mass scale. Social media use among older adults grew 100 percent last year, so that one in four (26 percent) people in that age group online are now logging in to Facebook, Twitter and the like, reports the Pew Internet and American Life Project in a recent study. Not coincidentally, Facebook is now a 500 billion dollar company.
Global aging is a well established phenomenon. Indeed, among all the human beings who have lived to see old age, in all of human history, more than half are living among us right now. This demographic trend is destined to explode within American society as the Post War generation races toward late adulthood. Already, an American turns 65 every 10.8 seconds. These numbers, while staggering, are easily understood. Much more difficult to comprehend are the personal and cultural consequences of this shift. A massive population, with a proven ability to transform society, is about to encounter the boundary between life’s second and third stages. Unlike all previous human generations, they will struggle to find their way forward as members of a youth obsessed society and without access to the ceremonial initiations or guiding rituals that have historically smoothed the passage out of adulthood and into elderhood. This radical unpreparedness will make this, the Post War generation’s second crucible, much more challenging than its first.
Tomorrow: What is a Crucible?