For baby boomers, optimism and a rejection of 'old'

Posted: July 14, 2011

WASHINGTON - Baby boomers say wrinkles aren't so bad and they're not that worried about dying. Just don't call them old.

The generation that once powered a youth movement isn't ready to symbolize the aging of America, even as its first members are becoming eligible for Medicare. A new poll finds three-quarters of all baby boomers still consider themselves middle-aged or younger. That includes most of the boomers who are ages 57 to 65.

Younger adults call 60 the start of old age, but baby boomers are pushing that number back, according to the Associated Press-LifeGoesStrong.com poll. The median age they cite is 70. And a quarter of boomers insist you're not old until you're 80.

"In my 20s, I would have thought the 60s were bad, but they're not so bad at all," said Lynn Brown, 64, a retired legal assistant and grandmother of 11 living near Phoenix in Apache Junction, Ariz.

Overall, they're upbeat about their futures. Americans born in the population explosion after World War II are more likely to be excited about the positive aspects of aging, such as retirement, than worried about the negatives, such as declining health. A third of those polled feel confident about growing older, almost twice as many as find it frustrating or sad. Sixteen percent say they're happy about aging, about equal to the number who say they're afraid. Most expect to live longer than their parents.

A strong majority of baby boomers are enthusiastic about some perks of aging - watching their children or grandchildren grow up, doing more with friends and family, and getting time for favorite activities. About half say they're highly excited about retirement. Boomers most frequently offered the wisdom accumulated over their lives as the best thing about aging.

The AP-LifeGoes-Strong.com poll was conducted from June 3-12 by Knowledge Networks of Menlo Park, Calif., and involved online interviews with 1,416 adults, including 1,078 baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The margin of sampling error for results from the full sample is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points; for boomers, it is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

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