It is well known that baby boomers are changing the world. At least that is what we were so convinced of back in the day. Now that we are more concerned with the price of Depends than the spiritual quotient of the universe, perhaps our day has come and gone.
According to an interesting article in the new magazine Miller-McCune ("Turning research into solutions"), the population perfect storm known as the baby boom is changing everything for the future of the world. And it is actually for the better. This is in direct contrast, by the way, to the usual headlines: "Selfish baby boomers bankrupt our future!" or "You are old and irrelevant: Deal with it!"
Boomers are definitely still having an effect on the scene. Over the next 20 years a whopping 76 million Americans from the boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) will join the Social Security club. "The costs created by America's aging population are staggering," reports Mark Haas in the Miller-McCune article, "Pax Americana Geriatrica."
"The congressional Budget Office projects that by 2015, spending on the elderly will total almost $1.8 trillion, nearly half the anticipated federal budget."
Yet, Hass also reports a surprisingly positive benefit accruing to our resource-sucking boomers: "Global aging will be a potent force in the continuation of American military and economic dominance."
Wow! The generation that protested loudly against the American military-industrial complex, is now somehow responsible for its continued success into the 21st century. Who would have thunk it?
This is actually a worldwide phenomenon. Because of "historically low fertility rates and expanding life expectancies, there is an unprecedented aging of populations in all of the major powers: Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, China — as well as the U.S." Accordingly, those countries can expect at least 20 percent of their population to be older than 65 by 2050.
And why does this mean that the U.S. will be ahead of the game economically and militarily? There are many factors. Other countries are just now experiencing their own "youth bulge" similar to what the U.S. experienced in the '60s when the boomers came of age. According to Haas, "active and disaffected young people" in other countries, notably China and Islamic nations, are creating a tax on their country's resources that will put them at a disadvantage with the United States.
While those protesting and disaffected youth who currently terrify us grow older and fatter — just like we have in this country — they settle down and, according to Haas, "become a source of political stability and economic development." Furthermore, he contends: "There is reason to believe this pattern will hold in Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim states as their youth slip into middle age."
Although we are aging fast, we are aging less fast than any of the others. This means that we will most likely still be a world superpower and can use our advantage for peaceful purposes.
This has got to be good news for those aging boomers who passionately participated in the peace marches of the late '60s. We may not have succeeded in those youthful idealisms, as witnessed by the past five years, but we may just succeed yet. Not by wearing flowers in our hair, but by simply growing older.
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh, a Cape Girardeau native, is a clinical psychologist who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.