Were you born between 1946 and 1964? If so, then you were 1 of approximately 77 million babies born in the United States during the Baby Boomer generation (“Reinventing Aging,” 2005). In just 3 years, the oldest Baby Boomer will turn 65. Trends are showing that through the year 2030, the percentage of aging citizens will increase while the percentage of younger age groups will decrease (Jackson, 2006). This widening gap, which is occurring not only because of a larger increase in the number of aging Baby Boomers but also because of increased longevity in healthier seniors, poses a serious social and economic threat to our society. Self-sufficiency becomes paramount.
Recent political and social developments involving Social Security, Medicare, pensions, and rising shortages of many health care professionals clearly indicate the need for self-sufficiency (Zinner, 2006). Baby Boomers will be living well into their 90s, uncertain now of what the future holds for them. The greatest challenges facing Baby Boomers are continued productivity, social satisfaction, and generativity (Zinner, 2006). It is hoped that many Boomer nurses will be healthy enough to continue working, if they so desire. The impetus is to maintain optimal physical and cognitive functioning.
The White House Conference on Aging in 2005, “The Booming Dynamics of Aging: From Awareness to Action,” focused on the increased number of aging Baby Boomers (Jackson, 2006). One of the six conference tracks was “Health and Long-Term Living.” Fifty resolutions believed to be most important for current and future generations were decided. The 37th resolution was “Prevent disease and promote healthier lifestyles through educating providers and consumers on health care” (Jackson, 2006, p. 5).
According to Hartman-Stein and Potkanowicz (2003), recent research findings show that if aging Boomers engage in certain health behaviors in their middle years, they will experience successful aging in the older years. The evidence is overwhelming. The authors offer recommendations to prevent disease-related problems, cognitive impairment, and late-life depression. The key is to be proactive in the area of physical activity, because the muscular and skeletal systems respond well to exercise (Hartman-Stein & Potkanowicz, 2003). The physical activity must include flexibility and resistance training to perform activities of daily living at the highest possible level. A formal exercise regimen is not necessary because the benefits of exercise can be achieved while performing daily routines. This is the best way to delay disability (Hartman-Stein & Potkanowicz, 2003).
Cognitive intactness can be maintained by mental stimulation as long as the stimulation is different from the daily routine. Suggestions for maintaining cognitive intactness include learning a new hobby, taking a computer course, learning a foreign language, or learning to play a musical instrument. The key is to involve information processing (Hartman-Stein & Potkanowicz, 2003).
Last, for emotional health, staying involved and connected to others is a must. This comes naturally for many Baby Boomers because their generation grew up in the politically active society of the 1960s when protests, the feminism movement, and rock ’n’ roll were common. This generation will remain engaged in life and community for years to come.
So the message is simple. Take good care of yourself! We, as nurses, know very well how to take care of others, but in the midst of performing so many roles, we often fall short in taking care of ourselves. Who else will do it?
Mary Ann Pascucci, PhD, APRN, BC
University of Oklahoma
College of Nursing
- Hartman-Stein, PE & Potkanowicz, ES. 2003. Behavioral determinants of healthy aging: Good news for the baby boomer generation. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 82, Manuscript 5. Retrieved September 15, 2007, from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume82003/Num2May31_2003/BehaviorandHealthyAging.aspx.
- Jackson, R. 2006, May. White House conference on aging: Delegates voted to make nutrition their 22nd resolution [Electronic version]. Health Care Food & Nutrition Focus, 235, 1, 3–5.
- Reinventing aging: Baby boomers and civic engagement [Electronic version]. 2005. Caring, 24, 32–35.
- Zinner, P. 2006. Preparing the work force for retirement: The role of occupational health nurses [Electronic version]. AAOHN Journal, 54, 531–536.