Those of us in our 60s and 70s have lived our lives at the best and most exciting time in history. We were born into the 1940s and 1950s, and our lives will most likely end during the 2030s and 2040s. In between, there were so many experiences, so many opportunities, new things and ideas and so many changes.
We grew up right after World War II. These years in history were full of growth, expansion and cultural possibilities. There was an emphasis on education and suburban living. I remember getting our first car, TV and dishwasher. Things were safe. Developmentally, these first 20 years of our lives are about forming trust and independence, and discovering our identities and egos. This was a perfect time to explore and expand our horizons.
We came of age during the 1960s and ’70s. What an incredibly exciting time it was. In our 20s and 30s, the task is to form intimate relationships with others. Look at the culture during this time: peace, love and rock ’n’ roll! There was a renaissance taking place with all forms of expression – civil rights, women’s rights, anti-war demonstrations, drugs, sexuality, music, art and literature. The Beatles, need I say more? And remember disco? What a time to connect with others and widen our perceptions.
At the ages of 40 to 60, the focus is generativity – our work and parenting years. Here, we were in the 1980s and ’90s, the ’80s being a decade of excess, boom and bust investment cycles, cable TV and MTV, Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna. The ’90s were another decade of great prosperity because of the internet and explosion of technology. It also ushered in the beginning of the idea of sustainability and environmental protection. There were endless opportunities for interesting and cutting-edge jobs in this cultural expansion. These were great years to be working and raising families.
Now, here we are in our 60s and 70s, and it’s the first couple of decades into the new century. Our developmental task now is to feel a sense of fulfillment and to pass our wisdom on to others. I’ve noticed an explosion of spiritual awareness, Eastern thought, alternative healing and environmental insight.
However, along with the backdrop of raised consciousness came the beginning of the demise. Globalization and greater communication have evolved, but also great environmental and climate changes, the worst and most destructive natural disasters in history, corruption on all levels, terror and nuclear threats, wars and uprisings, energy crises and the extreme divisiveness and cold war that has grown in our country and others.
Too many people, too much violence, dissolution of morals and ethics and civility, emotional disconnection, erosion of wilderness and quiet and clean air and water ...
It’s easy to carry a sense of despair about how the world has changed from what we’ve lived though. The idea of impermanence and change is clear. Perhaps the spiritual ideas are necessary for our generation now, to rise above the fray, help us try to be kind, assist in whatever we can to “pass on our wisdom” and find some compassion in our lives.
I will be ready to die when the time comes, but I’m afraid for my children and grandchildren for what they may face in the future. We had the best years, and I’m sorry to see them end.
I wonder if every generation thinks they lived at the best time.
Martha McClellan was a developmental educator in early childhood for 38 years. She has moved her focus to the other end of life, and has written a book, The Aging Athlete: What We Do to Stay in the Game. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.