By Anne Kingston - Thursday, August 20, 2009 - 3 Comments
Author Theodore Roszak on the boomers’ ﬁnal revolution, the female caregiver as a radical force, old drivers and the end of sex
In 1969, historian Theodore Roszak’s The Making of a Counter Culture coined the term that deﬁned a generation. His new book, The Making of an Elder Culture, explores the potential social sea change resulting from a gerontocracy in which most of Western society is over the age of 50.
Q: You make the provocative claim that baby boomers have a second chance to reshape history due to their demographic clout, even that their place in history could hinge more on their second act as “elders” than their ﬁrst act as radicals.
A: Yes, the people leading the way toward a gerontocracy are the same people who were raising hell on the college campuses of the ’60s. This is a very special population because they had a special historical experience that acquainted them with the willingness to make big changes. These people are going to be older for a longer period of time than they were ever young and have much more political and ﬁnancial clout than younger people.
Q: How will this shift in social consciousness begin to shake out?
A: Well, once again the demographic weight is going to force people to think differently, even if they start off with a very negative attitude—which is generally the attitude we have toward aging. But you’re going to have to put up with the fact that we now have a lot of 70-year-olds and 80-year-olds who are not like your grandparents or great-grandparents. They go on working, they’re professionals, they are active. These are not just parasites leaning on the rest of the society. I talk about experience being of great economic value, but we’ve never given it enough weight in our economic thought. And I speak as a historian—this is an unprecedented state of affairs, and so it’s new to people, they’ve never had to think about the demographics of their society in this way. Continue…