It’s kind of funny until you put more thought to it – that a late-life generation gap is turning up between baby boomers and their elders. Newly-arrived 60-year-olds at retirement communities are at odds with long-time residents who are 75, 80 and 90. At Rossmoor, in Walnut Creek, California, Dick Hayes, 71, who was once the president of the Residents Association, explains:
“I think there is an attempt, and it may be subtle and unconscious, to get rid of the 80- and 90-year olds.”
- SFgate.com, 27 February 2007
Marjorie Murray, president of the nonprofit Center for California Homeowners Association Law, quoted in the same news story, concurs:
“The message is: Retirement ain’t what it used to be…Everybody is going to be tap dancing and jumping on trampolines. Boards and property managers are re-engineering senior communities as destination resorts and health clubs. Senior homeowners who need wheelchairs don’t fit this marketing plan.
“Boards and management companies want to upgrade the amenities…to market to the next generation of retirees. To finance improvements, they saddle current residents with huge bills they can’t pay.”
And force some, who cannot afford the increased monthly cost, to leave – after 15 or 20 or 25 years in their homes. In addition to expanding fitness centers, adding Pilates classes and championship golf courses, some services required by older residents are being eliminated. At Rossmoor, a service that helped elders get up the stairs to their second-floor apartments has been discontinued.
The massive number of baby boomers now beginning to retire is going to put a lot of pressure on existing retirement communities to change their styles to suit younger elders. But management companies will need to be careful to not fall over the edge into abuse of older residents. And make no mistake, suddenly increasing monthly maintenance by hundreds of dollars for people on fixed incomes to pay a loan for a new golf course is abuse. Even more so is eliminating necessary physical aids.
This is the first news story I’ve seen about the rivalry developing between different elder age groups, but it will not be the last. Baby boomers have spent a lifetime bending the culture to their point of view and they won’t stop now. But to use the force of their numbers to change the rules at retirement villages should not and cannot involve removing the help to those who need it. And, doing so is likely to backfire on them, as 73-year-old John Reppert, who lives at Rossmoor, points out:
“…Reppert suggests that Boomers shouldn’t concentrate too much on aerobic treadmills, tennis and softball. Sooner than they think, they may be the ones who will be needing help.
“’People come here with the idea of growing old gracefully and then having a heart attack while they sleep,’ Reppert says. ‘But the reality is that 90 percent are going to face some kind of debilitating illness.’”
Several decades ago, when the phrase “generation gap” first made its appearance, it defined only the social, cultural and political differences between parents and children. Today’s emerging elder generation gap is more serious and could become deadly to the oldest elders.