Sunday, November 27, 2022

And Another Note on Aging Alone

Scott Siskind, from a post describing all the misery he has seen as a practicing psychiatrist:

A perfectly average patient will be a 70 year old woman who used to live somewhere else but who moved here a few years ago after her husband died in order to be closer to family. She has some medical condition or other that prevents her from driving or walking around much, and the family she wanted to be closer to have their own issues, so she has no friends within five hundred miles and never leaves her house except to go to doctors’ appointments. She has one son, who is in jail, and one daughter, who married a drug addict. She also has one grandchild, her only remaining joy in the world – but her drug-addict son-in-law uses access to him as a bargaining chip to make her give him money from her rapidly-dwindling retirement account so he can buy drugs. When she can’t cough up enough quickly enough, he bans her from visiting or talking to the grandchild, plus he tells the grandchild it’s her fault. Her retirement savings are rapidly running out and she has no idea what she will do when they’re gone. Probably end up on the street. Also, her dog just died.

If my patients were to read the above paragraph, there are a handful who would sue me for breach of confidentiality, assuming I had just written down their medical history and gotten a couple of details like the number of children wrong. I didn’t. This is a type.


G. Verloren said...

We have a term for such people: Baby Boomers.

Honestly, George Carlin talked about the core issues with the demographic way back in 1996, when the Boomers were unhappy about starting to hit middle age.

"They're cold, bloodless people - it's in their slogans, it's in their rhetoric: 'No pain, no gain!'; 'Just do it!'; 'Life is short, play hard!', 'Shit happens, deal with it'!; 'Get a life!'

These people went from 'Do your own thing' to 'Just say no!'; they went from 'Love is all you need' to "Whoever winds up with the most toys wins!'; and they went from cocaine to Rogaine."

Not a single person I personally know from Gen X or younger has any sympathy for the Boomers - they made their bed, always at the expense of others (particularly their own children), and now they get to lie in it. How fitting for the most selfish generation to slowly die alone.

David said...

Wow, Verloren, that really is pretty harsh. Yes, you are describing one major public face of the boomers, especially in the eighties. Jerry Rubin was a prominent poster child for that sort. (Rubin was pretty obnoxious and really kind of savage in that boomer way, even when he was a activist--"yeah, you parents better be scared, 'cause we're gonna shit all over your world"--that kind of thing. Abbie Hoffman was supposed to be the "genuine" one, though he could be pretty mean too.)

But I don't think Siskind's patients are that sort. I doubt any ever got quoted bloviating in Time or Newsweek. FWIW, they seem like genuine unfortunates who deserve at least little verbal forbearance, and maybe some outright kindness.

Indeed, I wonder how generational their problems are. Theirs sound like perennial American stories.

G. Verloren said...


Take it up with Carlin, if you think it's harsh. Perhaps it is harsh - but no one ever said the truth would always be pleasant.

Siskind makes it clear, this is a type - lots of people fit the description. I'd argue it's a stereotype, and then further note that many stereotypes are more or less wholly accurate and apt, and argue this is absolutely one of those.

Boomers are broadly hated. Is that just because they are "genuine unfortunates", and they somehow got a bad rap and have received an unfair reputation (particularly among the younger generations who they are the parents and grandparents of)? Or do you suppose that maybe there's actually something to that hatred, and the fact that these people have been openly criticized decade after decade after decade, by all the other people around them, from all the other living generations, who have to live in a society which was reshaped to cater to the every whim of the Boomers specifically, at the expense of everyone else?

pootrsox said...

The sorts of Boomers who spouted those slogans Carlin mocks are not the sort of Boomers who wind up with kids in jail and/or on drugs.... or running out of retirement funds long before they permanently retire to the earth. The ones he's talking about never did all that well in their "productive" years. For every Trump type, there are dozens-- nay, hundreds of folks like the type Siskind describes.

I am pre-Boomer by about 3 years. But I am much more Boomer than "Greatest Generation" -- was born 12/7/43, so the war was over before I even reached any sort of awareness of the world; my world was the post WWII glory years of Eisenhower (though I distinctly remember listening to radio news broadcasts of body counts from Korea) and the "golden" years of Kennedy... by which point I was an adult, married to a man who enlisted in the Navy to avoid being sent to Nam as ground fodder, and deeply enmeshed in the world of teaching and grad school.

Thanks be, as a single retired teacher in CT I have a superb pension, as well as a decent IRA spun over from my 403b... but plenty of people I went to high school and even to college with don't have that financial security, regardless of whether or not they were archetypal boomers. Plenty of them also have made fortunes of various sizes. (One college boyfriend who was drummed out of the College of Education wound up going to law school and has since made donations adding up to millions to our mutual alma mater. And he was archetypal Boomer, btw.)

I too made an almost 500 mile move to be near my only offspring when she presented me last year with a grandchild. I gave up two strong social circles (quilting and theatre), a house I loved and had customized for my own needs, the simplicity of rural living, and the blessings of super-low property taxes and multiple farmers markets.

Now I have half the square footage, obligations to the HOA, utility bills through the roof, property taxes 3 times what they were for half the property... and I have no social life (though I do try to get involved with local groups) and am surrounded by metro Hartford traffic and noise. But no one is after my retirement dollars, and so far my health is sort of holding up, so I can drive, and even walk despite physical limitations on that.

I am typical, too. And this hatred of Boomers you cite is exaggerated because it's based on the Trump-style archetype, not on the average joes and janes who had union jobs, loved their 2.5 kid families, cats, dogs, and homes in the suburbs, voted regularly, donated to charities, etc etc etc.

David said...

Verloren, I think you missed my point. I didn't mean Carlin was harsh on boomers. I meant you were being harsh on the rather unfortunate people Siskind was describing. They seem to me to be suffering difficulties that are typical of modern life, or perhaps a greater or lesser portion of human life in general, quite aside from generational schemes.

The whole Siskind essay is quite excellent and well worth reading. He's a person of great warmth and human sympathy, as well as insight.

Anonymous said...

You're missing Verloren's schtick: Old People Bad, Young People Good. That's it. It's not really more complicated than that.