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Rejuvenescence American Style: Longevity, Aging, The US Tradition of Rejecting the Old & the US Baby Boom Generation Now

John Dean

Résumés

Cet essai d’histoire culturelle porte sur l’âge, le vieillissement, la longévité, la conscience de toute une génération des États-Unis d’aujourd’hui, et apporte des fondements vérifiables à ces thématiques : comment l’âge est à la fois réel et artificiel. Les cadres qui définissent notre compréhension de l’âge sont physiques, bien sûr, mais ils sont aussi créés et imposés par une civilisation. Cet essai cherche à analyser ce que vieillir veut dire pour la génération des Baby Boomers américains – un groupe qui, comme aucun autre dans l’histoire des États-Unis, s’est défini par sa jeunesse. La recherche qui nourrit cet essai se place au carrefour de l’histoire culturelle, de l’analyse de cohorte (cohort analysis), de la sociologie des media de masse, des études américaines, et de l’analyse interculturelle. Des traits majeurs de la civilisation américaine sont utilisés comme outils d’analyse : la Terre Promise, le progrès, la surabondance, l’innocence, le rajeunissement, le succès, l’opportunité, l’ingéniosité, la technologie, la Déclaration d’indépendance, la Constitution, les Pères fondateurs, l’isolationnisme.

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  • 1 David Boyd Haycock, Mortal Coil: A Short History of Living Longer ( New Haven: Yale University Pres (...)

1Age, aging, longevity and age rejection invite three, fundamental analytic approaches. To examine this phenomenon “firstly, at the cellular level; secondly, at species level – through the lens of evolution by natural selection,” or, thirdly, at the Cultural History level – the plane which this essay explores with special reference to the contours of US culture and society from mid-20th century until the present.1 Part One (I) focuses on the universal phenomenon of seeking life without end, this dynamic's contrast and complement with how life's stages have been measured and the provocative preoccupation with the new in US culture and society which constantly encourages renewal. Part Two (II) discusses theoretical methods, US identity and rejuvenescence. Part Three (III) digs into the case study core of this essay: the US Boomer Generation (b. 1946-1964) and argues that the puzzle of US Boomer age rejection and the American tradition of rejecting the old has eleven key components: (1) futurism; (2) positive-thinking; (3) political counter alliances; (4) work; (5) US popular culture; (6) body culture; (7) role models for aging, anti-aging, illness and death; (8) aging and patrimony; (9) technology & culture; (10) change adjustment; (11) Europeans versus North Americans. Part Four (IV) offers a four-part fillip about: (1) US political culture, (2) US Literature vs. Film as key gauge for this topic, (3) death denial in America, and finally (4) fear, death & the ambition of positive solutions for life's ultimate dissolution.

I. The Thing Itself: A Universal

2C. S. Lewis and Leonardo da Vinci had this thing about longing. For them longing was proof of something known but not found. Sage Lewis called that ardor which is longing a sensuous-visionary knowledge of “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”2 Which for Lewis was one proof of God’s existence. But magical da Vinci did Lewis one step better. He declared in his Notebooks that ”longing is in its quintessence the spirit of the elements – which finding itself imprisoned as the soul within the human body – is ever longing to return to its sender; and I would have you know that this same longing is that quintessence inherent in nature, and that man personifies the world.”3 Man trumps God; he is the world. With longing mankind is reborn. There is renaissance.

3Age, aging, longevity, and the consciousness of a generation – the focal cluster of this Cultural History essay – are about more than themselves. They are biological facts, cultural and social constructions, and express a specially American longing for more. Abundance, not obesity. Age is a mathematical grading and age is greater than the sacred eighteen, twenty-one, sixty-five litany. Age is real and artificial both; “age” is created by artificial frames progressively imposed.

4Age takes in more than itself. Just as America is larger than its physical borders. Or as American Studies has become Transnational American Studies by virtue of America’s immense global influence and the perspectives on the US nation’s history and its ways provided by non-Americans who can evaluate the USA’s unique pattern of relationships from an outsider’s acute distance.

5The subject at hand begins as a universal and then becomes particular. Begin this pursuit with want, with longing, because hunger precedes eating. How yearning, désir, Sehnsucht seeks an object for its appetite. A solution. More than God or gods, more than nature’s quintessence, a possession, a way is needed. An answer.

6Lewis and da Vinci identified the god-like, vague yet specific thought and emotion of profound longing. They saw it as a calling, a drawing, an expectation. The recognition of a transcendence not yet achieved by humanity but sensed and known. And what has mankind longed for more than not to die, for an end to the whole process that takes humanity down?

  • 4 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880), Book II, Ch. 4 ; Constance Garnett translat (...)

7As King Solomon wrote “of men, yet is their hope full of immortality.” Of course. Why not? You exist. Why should you disappear? Poof. Gone. That’s it. Me. We. You. It’s unbelievable. You’re alive. “If you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality,” claimed Dostoyevsky, “not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up.”4

8Haven’t key witnesses in every civilization, culture and society that have ever existed had this wish, this vision? Desired a way to be ageless? Yet has anyone ever found it? Except when angling in the murky waters of dreams or in the gilded promises of mankind’s myths – in that immense sea of mankind’s remakings.

9Whatever it is that people have angled for or think they’ve caught that helps to make them ageless has been given many names and symbols. The Hindus claimed the beverage amrita. The ancient, elegant Egyptians had their talisman ankh which promised everlasting life. The Greeks and Romans found nectar. Judeo-Christians envisioned the fruit “of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” – God forbid. Others saw the secret of agelessness in the cypress, the greybeard-grow-young plant, or the apples of perpetual youth, the yew, the scarab, the serpent and the amber axe.

  • 5 Shakespeare, "The Passionate Pilgrim" , 1599 ; also attributed to Thomas Deloney (1543-1600)

10“Age I do abhor thee; youth I do adore thee....Age, I do defy thee,” scribbled Shakespeare one day with quill and ink.5 Of course. What is more of a knot – a not – since human time began? What could be more universal and yet what more particular than this ever-longer chain of quandaries, this noose and questing nous of youth, age, and time?

11The turning point of life and death is a fulcrum of all civilizations; the vertiginous pivot of life ever creating and death ever erasing and life ever creating in an endless Möbius strip of All Things Natural and generations ever changing.

12But what is this Big Loop? What does it mean? Is it a contradictory or a complementary force?

13In religious terms the answer is brazenly simple. Sanctity is given to the cold facts and hard evidence. It must be. There must be autumn. There must be spring. God, it’s so frustrating.

14The legendary old truths can respond to but not answer this problem. They keep any answer at a taunting, authoritative “through a glass darkly” distance. Legend and religion are tantalizingly declarative. They offer axiom, maxim, law, the proverb, not question and answer.

  • 6 Homer, The Iliad, Book VI, ll. 146-150 ; Richmond Lattimore translation.

15Hence: “As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity. The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning: So one generation of men will grow while another dies.”6

16Sublime but evasive; corrosive even to reason. Easily reproduced in thousands of scintillatingly beautiful religious texts worldwide. Thanks for nothing. The gods give us no choice.

17When you get to American Studies and Cultural History you can get a grip on this slippery thing which – in their grand, global, ecumenical sense – civilization and comparative religious studies do not allow. That specially religion itself offers as its calling card for belief. Which religion demands: Face it. This is it. Fess up and admit. Believe and take the cure of no answer but The Way Things Are.

18Although the cycle of life and death and life is universal, how this cycle is dealt with is particular. Think people, country, tribe, nation, culture and customs, mōrēs and more American style.

  • 7 William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain (New York : New Directions, 2009 ; orig. publ.1933) (...)

19And because its time has been short, its history concise, as William Carlos Williams argued, “there is a source in America for everything we think or do.”7 America has tackled this atrocious problem in its very own way. Can’t we trace from taproot to flower, beginning to present, the sense which American Civilization has made of this problem – by virtue of its culture?

20The process of culture is complicated. What culture is – is not. Culture is growth and development. We are all born screaming and naked in this world in bed with a beautiful woman, our mother. And then our individual culture takes hold and shapes us each and all together as it wills, as we resist or cooperate or invent or innovate in response to the powerful ways of the cultures we are born into or move through.

  • 8 Howard Chudacoff, How Old Are You ? Age Consciousness in American Culture (Princeton, N. J. : Princ (...)

21This is true of youth and age, which are biological facts yet also are cultural and social constructions built to meet practical needs. Age consciousness in our modern sense, for example, does not take hold in America until the gradations forced upon people by the military experience of the US Civil War (1861-1865) and “the spread of pediatric medicines and age-graded schooling” in that same transitional era.8

  • 9 The late, great Susan Sontag, from her essay "Notes on ’Camp’ ", 1964.

22Like the nation-wide imposition of railroad time following the completion of the USA’s intercontinental railroad in 1869, time in America went from loose to rigid. Time and age gradations went from gradual, natural and nature bound, strengths increasing and strengths receding – to fixed, scaled human times of life slotted into strict, artificial but eminently useful grids of industrial schedules in a mass production, mass consumption society. A kind of Taylorism for ageing was imposed long before Taylorism was ever invented. (“Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described.”9)

  • 10 William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain (New York : New Directions, 2009 ; orig. publ.1933) (...)

23Rapidly scroll forward the map of America’s development. Let’s try to generalize intelligently. Consider Euro-American America that roughly takes shape in sloppy recorded reality from the Viking times of Eric the Red and that great mercenary gate crasher Christopher Columbus – “Let it have been as genius that he made his first great voyage, possessed of that streamlike human purity of purpose called by that name”10 – down to the nation’s uneasy present day. What does one find?

24Thrusting for the new, the renewed, has ever been an essential trait. America has always been, and shall always be, newer than Europe. In the early 1500s Amerigo Vespucci first coined the phrase “New World” to refer to America. He got it right; even though people misread his maps. And then from 1607 to 1890 the New World nation moved ever into the new, until the Frontier stopped and fresh forms of sequence, experience and encounters took hold where the known met the unknown, the civilized met the uncivilized, the organized the unruly.

  • 11 Archibald MacLeish, "Sweet Land of Liberty", 1955.
  • 12 Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932) ; US Historian & originator of “The Frontier Thesis” in US Civ (...)
  • 13 The USA is not unique as a "frontier culture" ; one finds frontier to be a dynamic engine of develo (...)

25We all know Frederick Jackson Turner didn’t make a perfect argument. But, as Archibald MacLeish wrote of the American experience, the “West is a country in the mind, and so eternal.”11 Turner had more strengths than weaknesses in his point that America “was born of no theorist’s dream. It came stark and strong and full of life out of the American forest, and it gained new strength each time it touched a new frontier.”12 The American environment demanded ingenuity and creativity on an unprecedented scale.13

26From the time when John Rolfe started dealing in tobacco about 1613 and added to his investment by marrying into the local culture – from Jamestown to Massachusetts Bay Colony, Providence Plantations to the Province of Georgia – America grew on the strength of continuous market expansion. Find a new product and sell it widely was and has ever been the nation’s trope, leitmotif, harangue and Siren call. ”To be successful in business,” wrote King Gillette in his mesmerizing all-American guide The Human Drift (1894), “you should produce something cheap, habit-forming, and consumed by use.” From the old indigo plantations of the American South to the dot com boom of the San Francisco 1990s, that’s the spirit.

  • 14 Charles A. Beard, May R. Beard, A Basic History of the United States (Philidelphia, The New Home Li (...)

27James Beard was right that ours was primarily an economic Revolution, more than a social one. An ancient social order was not decapitated and replaced by a new one. The Powers That Be in America of the 1770s became even more so by the 1780s. Until eventually for the “first time in the history of the human race the possibility of an abundant production, freed from the leash of mere human energy, loomed on the horizon of peoples capable of developing the Industrial Revolution toward the goal set by the potentials of technology.”14 With technology came a juggernaut of new methods and devices, a wave removing old foundations and demanding transformation.

  • 15 Personally witnessed Denver, Colorado, spring 2013.

28Immigrants poured in with no time to lose. The nation pushed west from Greenfield, Massachusetts, to the Great Northwest and Alaska. Stake your claim. Clear the land. Root hog or die. Dig in and make a profit. Or move on. The process was often brutal and ruthless. It was awfully dynamic. As US bumper stickers declare out West to this day: “The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way” and “It wasn’t the easy way, it was the cowboy way.”15 Which the Native Americans constantly learned to their disadvantage.

  • 16 Oscar Wilde, ’Australian Poets’ in Pall Mall Gazette, vol. XLVIII, No. 7409, December, 14th, 1888, (...)

29The country’s powers developed rapidly and successively as New England schooners, pathfinders and Conestoga wagons, miners, cattlemen and farmers, the Pony Express, the Colt, the telegraph and the train all combined to make the continental American economy richer and greater than the whole British Empire. As America grew older, it oddly became new. This astonished Oscar Wilde when he visited the USA in the late 19th century and remarked: “The youth of America is their oldest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years.”16

30Identity is continuity over time. And essential to the formation of American culture and its national identity throughout the nations few centuries has been and remains the value of time as commodity, as investment. Time must be exploited. That evanescent measurement of eternity has proudly been materialized, monetized, purchased by actions with the expectation of benefit in the United States. Wall Street is more than a place.

31American time is not time off but time on; seedbed time of a work-opportunity-renewal-reward process. “Leisure is the time for doing something useful,” Franklin made maxim of in American’s subconscious glossary of values. The “pursuit of Happiness” is an engrained founding statement of principle. Note: pursuit – the chase, the quest and not the possession thereof. Always hungry, always yearning, always more became the US rule of thumb.

  • 17 Corinne T. Field & Nicholas L. Syrett, Age in America : The Colonial Era to the Present (New York : (...)

32By the 1920s and specially by the postwar 1950s the USA’s modern consumer society roared down its highways in Fords and Chevies, Lincolns and Cadillacs, bloomed and blustered from coast to coast throughout the USA. The Baby Boomer generation born between 1946-1964 grew up in a world of older traditions be damned. They accumulated an expectation of new evaluations artificially imposed by the US marketing labels and segments of “toddler” (word and label that first gained traction in the US 1930s), then “teens” and “teenager” in the 1940s, then “tweens” by the 1980s – and then the “Longevity Revolution” today.17

33For Boomers, radio replaced and almost erased TV. The automobile and then its magic carpet of the US Interstate Highway System displaced the world’s best train service as of circa 1940s. Hit the road, Jack. Thumping, whumping rock music wiped out the sonorous Big Bands. Which all happened a generation or two before the next technological tsunami of the digital-devouring dot com boom and the next – ever onward – erasing wave of The New.

34Consider how once upon a time in America rurally sentimental and craftsman-enamored Henry Ford wanted a Model T pattern of continuity for his nation and its technological gauge. Henry Ford wanted good old American life built upon one good, reliable machine which was steadily improved over time. No need to build, sell or buy a new device once you got the first one right.

  • 18 A. J. Baime, The Arsenal of Democracy : FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War (B (...)

35But General Motors’ lean and hungry Alfred P. Sloan was more in touch with the American hunger for great expectations and seductive novelty. Sloan managed to make his colorful Chevies outsell the drab Model T Fords by the mid-1920s. Not because they were a better car. But because GM relied on the fresh concept and practice of the annual model change, what Sloan labeled “Dynamic Obsolescence”, and has since ambiguously been labeled “planned obsolescence”.18

36By the second half of the 20th century change came to America with all the wonder and waste which ruthless haste, historical felicity and hungry progress demanded and allowed. Winning WW2, strengthened at its modern foundation by the military-industrial complex that Dwight D. Eisenhower first warned against in 1959, made more democratic by the liberal alterations in laws and customs championed in the 1960s, with strengths that moved with a titanic momentum which didn’t really start to slowly slowly sputter off course until the early 1970s – American grew new as never before.

  • 19 Fortune Magazine advertisement, mid-1980s.

37And is still going strong, thank you very much. Americans driven by the tempo of achievement fever. No long vacations. The individual must triumph. Business is tough. In theory everyone has an opportunity. And if you can’t find yours, tough luck, you’re on your own. “We’re all born equal, but after that you’re on your own baby” – as a 1980s ad for Fortune Magazine declared.19 You do not plateau. You move up or out. Even if that “up” has been reduced to 1%.

  • 20 Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (New York : New Directions, 1987 ; orig. publ. 1934) 25.

38“Any general statement is like a cheque drawn on a bank,” wrote Ezra Pound. “Its value depends on what is there to meet it... An abstract or general statement is good if it be ultimately found to correspond with the facts.”20 Here the facts are the American way of life. I realize the risk of vast generalizations I’m making for a diverse country of 333,000,000 plus. And though all generalizations are wrong, might this even include that it’s not always wrong to generalize?

  • 21 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide : Leading Across Cultures (Boston : Nicholas Brealey Intern (...)
  • 22 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide, ibid.

39For finally in America more than in any other culture “work equates with success, time is money. They have to get there first.” – as the cross-cultural analyst Richard D. Lewis wrote in his now classic When Cultures Collide (2010).21 America’s development and the growth of its human, natural, industrial, commercial and intellectual resources from its earliest times as a nation down to the present, of its “financial and military assets are of a muscular nature not yet approached by their rivals for twenty-first century dominance”22

  • 23 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide, ibid.

40This leaves Americans today wanting more and not getting it, wondering where that ultimately satisfying and tantalizing “it” can be. “Today’s Americans, unrelentingly driven by the traditional national habit of pressing forward, conquering the environment, effecting change and reaching their destination, are no longer sure what that destination is.”23 Thus for many of a particular generation rejuvenescence has become particularly important.

II. To Catch the Bountiful Boomers

41When the psychedelic generation of the US 60s crossed the longevity border into their senescent mid-50s around the year 2000, the Boomer senior citizens became propitiously topical as America’s new elders – whatever that means for a group which, as no other in the nation’s history, defined itself as young. A group that once upon a time decorated themselves with lapel buttons declaring “You Fight & Die But Can’t Drink at 18”, “Student Power”, “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30”, and chided old authorities as pussy cats because “J. Edgar Hoover Sleeps With a Night Light”.

  • 24 “Who Said It First ? Journalism is the ‘first rough draft of history.’” by Jack Shafer, Slate (30 A (...)

42Their border crossing into old age is news. Which is a history of sorts. As Washington Post publisher and editor Phil Graham once pointed out, news is “the rough draft of history” – with all the inconsistencies that on-going news events can provide.24 This subject is by nature incongruous – a generation that seeks to deny, control, or dominate senescence while it matures into old age.

43Thus in the USA’s Baby Boomer generation one finds a distinct manifestation of the universal desire to ward off aging. Seeking the new in their longing to stay young. Manifesting ingenuity while confronting this age old yearning.

44Not since the generation that fought the US Civil War – a generation who finally pioneered the US frontier of the American West into the civics of civilization – has there been such a popular concern in America with human sequels as there is now with the aging US Baby Boom generation. This is partly a matter of their huge, disproportionate demographic size in relation to the rest of the US population.

  • 25 US Census Bureau, "Labor Force Participation Rate of People 65 Years and Older : 2008 American Comm (...)

45Follow the figures. As they age, the Boomers become the largest generation of old people – ever – in US history. From 2010 to 2030 alone the USA’s 65-and-older population is projected to increase by 79%, which by 2030 will represent 19% of America’s total population.25 And moving up.

  • 26 Source : The Statistical Abstract of the USA – 2011-2012 edn. ; info. base for these statistical pa (...)

46This is mainly the cohort group that social statistics strictly defines as the US generation born from mid-1946 to 1964. For this mountain of people The Statistical Abstract of the United States defines “old” as: “55 years & over” and “65 years & over”. Americans calculatingly segue into “old” over a ten-year, borderline area. Thus it will not be until 2019-2024 that – using the strict 55-65 year old gauge and the mid-1946, 1964 birth dates – that all US boomers can strictly be classified as old.26

47Also, one gets to “old” by calculating percentage distribution: 55 years and older by 2010 made up 24.7% of the total population; 55 and older by 2050 will make up 31.1%; 65 years and older by 2010 made up 13% of the total US population; 65 years and older by 2050 shall make up 20.2% of the total population.

48Since they are in the process of becoming the largest group of oldtimers that have ever existed in US history, the Boomer’s abundance has a powerful magnetic effect establishing trends and setting lifestyle directions. This does not mean all old people in America are Boomers. But the demographic of the Great Depression and Second World War, a generation born approximately between 1926 and 1944 (who as of this writing would be between the ages of 86 and 68), are easily only half as large.

  • 27 Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power (London : Penguin Books, 1987 ; orig. publ. German as Masse und Mac (...)

49Thus the Boomers become the Machers; the largest single group which determines socioeconomic and sociocultural habits of health and consumption, dress and recreation, customs and expectations, quality of life and well-being among the old. They’re the bellwether group with the driving energy among America’s current oldsters. Which could be due, as Canetti suggested in Mass und Macht, to crowd power in modern mass society. A crowd always wants to grow. It seeks equality, conformity and density. And it needs direction.27

50This generation is indelibly marked. As the American writer John Knowles wrote of his own Second World War generation in A Separate Peace:

  • 28 John Knowles, A Separate Peace (New York : Macmillan-Bantam, 1982 [orig.1960]) 32.

51 “Everyone has a moment in history which belongs particularly to him. It is the moment his emotions achieve their most powerful sway over him, and afterward when you say to this person ‘the world today’ or ‘life’ or ‘reality’ – he will assume that you mean this moment, even if it is fifty years past.”28

52America’s Boomer generation are not safely locked away in a vault of times past. They’re a significant US cultural narrative rooted in a 60s youth identity that’s still rejuvenating

  • 29 Jerome H. Skolnick, Ed., The Politics of Protest (New York : Ballantine Books, 1969) 84 ; the repor (...)

53For the USA’s Boomers, post-WWII America was their remarkably felicitous, coming-of-age place – which is now on to fifty years past. They were cultivated in a special soil of great expectations; the American Century achieved. They were marked by an idealism “oriented toward progress and change” that celebrated “a conflict of generations [that] must be won by the young”; an idealism shaped by post-WWII “technological, cultural, and economic changes” in US civilization which required “new forms and mechanisms for the distribution” of personal and political power.29 It’s a mark that never let them go. And they’re still expecting more.

  • 30 On August 21, 2012, US National Senior Citizens Day.

54This is not, however, their universal, US popular image. Being old – specially in America – some falsely dismiss the Boomers as retrograde. For example, on a 2012 Jimmy Kimmel Live! late-night talk show on ABC, Kimmel celebrated National Senior Citizen’s Day by satirically exposing in a video skit how America’s Grandpas and Mas are dumbfounded by cyber technology. “In honor of Senior Citizens Day today,” joked Kimmel – a Generation X member, born 1967 – “I ate an entire bowl of hard candy and pretended not to know what a lap top was”.30

55This is because one popular image of older Americans – among Americans – is that they’re a bunch of doddering, out-of-touch idiots who are particularly uncomfortable and inept with new-generation technologies. Not so. For when you look at the breakdown of internet use by age groups in the 2011-2012 Statistical Abstract of the United States, you find it’s the USA’s seniors 55 years old and over who make up 31.20% of internet access and usage, while the youth culture 18 to 34 years old group runs short to only 30.50%.

56The rejection of aging in the US Baby Boomer generation and the US tradition of rejecting the old is not a neat subject. It is contentious and kaleidoscopic by nature. Generations are not like sedimentary rocks in earth’s crust, deposited in distinct strata. Generations are more like an immense arc of colors – sometimes distinct, sometimes not, often intermingling, and seen from a wealth of different viewpoints.

  • 31 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide (Boston : Nicholas Brealey International, 2006, 3rd edn.) C (...)

57Added to this is the powerful influence of future-based expectations in US culture. Like many industrialized Western cultures, and specially in their social and business spheres, Americans generally assume they can make the future happen. They are “linear-oriented people,” who “do not regard the future as entirely unknowable for they have already nudged it along certain channels by meticulous planning.”31

58So, wonders the Boomers, what to do about aging?

Ways and Means

  • 32 James Q. Wilson, "Hard Times, Fewer Crimes", The Wall Street Journal, Saturday Essay, May 28, 2011  (...)

59This group’s inherent variety demands a multitude of gauges. As the American political scientist and public administrator James Q. Wilson (1931-2012) argued at the summit of his career, to figure out the problems of a people means one should measure their identity both as a social scientist and a cultural historian; get to the facts and figures that may appear too specific, discuss the cultural argument that may seem too broad. Both ways are necessary to flesh out the full body of the problem.32

60Thus this essay will blend Cultural History, Cohort Analysis, Sociology of Mass Media, American Studies, and – along the way and specially toward the end – Cross-cultural analysis. The reason for this special blend of tools lies in the nature of each discipline and the problem itself. The science of each knowledge excites the analysis.

61Cultural History tries to account for the patterns of relations which permeate a group, a time, the mix of national and individual identity. Cultural History – in its problematic, classic sense as established by Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) in The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860,1876), as opposed to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Promethean flamboyance of heroic extremes in The Birth of Tragedy (1872) – argues that history is “studied with advantage from the most varied points of view.” For “it is the most serious difficulty of the history of civilization that a great intellectual process must be broken up into single, and often what may seem arbitrary categories, in order to be in any way intelligible.”

  • 33 Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860)

62An historical era’s full story must plausibly link and analyze a variety of individuals, associations and actions which may otherwise exhibit different core values, argued Burckhardt. It must intermingle people who perform complementary or opposed social functions: businessman and artist, aristocrat and peasant, courtesan and nun, vulgar street games and the ornate refinements of high scholarship. In other words: be layered, interlaced.33

63Cohort Analysis seeks to synthesize eclectic sources and group coherence. The master work of theoretical exposition – for this reader at least – about generation studies and cohort analysis is Karl Mannheim’s 1928 essay “The Generation Problem” – which is this essay’s methodological spine. A specific cohort analysis is itself a generalization that provides a useful composition of human order by sifting through the raw disorder of real things as they are. And thereby risks a display of order. As also done successfully, for example, in the variety of ways provided by Douglas T. Miller’s and Marion Nowak’s The Fifties: The Way We Really Were (1977); Robert Wohl’s The Generation of 1914 (1979); Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy (1993-1996); or Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (2005). And many others.

64This article does not assume it’s competing on the same level with these works of cohort analysis. But it seeks to lay out the fundamental issues of a debate, its Dialektik, its problématique. Think essay; think assay.

65In this attempt the author takes the liberty to use the fully enriched and extended meaning of “aging”. Which not only means the “process of growing old or developing qualities of the old”. But “aging” as the stages of life, the ages of mankind – from “the infant / Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms” to the “Last scene of all/...sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything” (AYL, II. vii. 143-144, 164, 167). And “aging” means a civil liberty, a civil right of “a person’s lifetime...with his or her active life” at stake, comprising the self-determination over one’s own life, the right to age or not – evoking such extreme issues as euthanasia and abortion. Aging is ethical.

  • 34 W. Andrew Achenbaum, "Delineating Old Age : From Functional Status to Bureaucratic Criteria," 301-3 (...)

66Like all revolutions, the USA’s Longevity Revolution risks cutting off some heads. What about the greying of the US Federal Budget? As Boomers age and money may primarily be used in caring for the old rather than taking care of the young? Advanced age that’s progressively becoming the US norm risks treading down hungry, younger US generations. If the Boomer “cohort defends its entitlements in an unreflecting manner” others will suffer; the USA’s “Longevity Revolution has rendered obsolete” – and dangerous for the commonwealth – Americans “three boxes of life – school, jobs, and leisure.”34

  • 35 Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride : Folklore of Industrial Man (Boston : Beacon Press, 1951).

67Sociology of Mass Media comes into play specially because of the effect and affect of media on human behavior in US civilization – both as a hardware, functional delivery system and as a software, wetware conveyor of emotions – and how the popular culture which is purveyed by media corporations acutely function as the “folklore of industrial mankind” in American civilization.35

  • 36 Voltaire : "L’illusion est le premier plaisir", in his poem "La Pucelle d’Orléans" (The Maid of Orl (...)

68This folklore is a two-edged sword. As Voltaire wrote: “Illusion is the first of all pleasures.”36 It can be panem et circenses or genuinely subversive. Yet deeper and as contemporaneous as the news, US popular culture reads human social behavior in stories which study the origins and developments of American values. It is the “mirror mirror on the wall” which mimetically reflects, ironically distorts, and vaingloriously praises the nation. The popular culture is the nation’s populist, ever-changing Declaration of Independence; a statement of principles, not law.

  • 37 Hans J. Morgenthau, Kenneth W. Thompson, Politics Among Nations : The Struggle for Power and Peace (...)

69With regard to American Studies, this article argues for American “exceptionalism” not in its tiresome old chauvinistic sense, but exceptionalism as identity. At play here is the generous anthropological sense of universal-particular traits. Among mankind universal phenomenon exist, such as generations and aging. Yet each distinct group of people has a special set of interactive characteristics, social relations, and cultural forces which shape their particular use of universals. “These qualities set one nation apart from others,” as Hans Morgenthau argued in Politics Among Nations (1985), and are the contested but incontestable “qualities of intellect and character...which show a high degree of resiliency to change.”37 This exceptionalism is the culture and society, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, communauté and société blend which together make up the identity of each individual civilization.

  • 38 Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One : An Anglo-American Tragedy (London : Chapman & Hall-Penguin : 1948) 64

70With this in mind, Cross-cultural analysis is used when called for and to expand this analysis into the realm of Transnational American Studies. Euro-US comparisons are peppered throughout this essay, with part focus on this issue near the essay’s conclusion. But US civilization in and of itself is this article’s dominant concern. My argument assumes that Europe is America’s great mirror. While America itself “is more than a replica” of Europe, as Evelyn Waugh insisted – “it is a reconstruction” of a profoundly different sort.38 (A head-on Euro-US comparison of how aging is now understood and dealt by each culture area would make a fascinating second essay.)

Key Words

71Rejecting aging is ridiculous – one might argue. It’s a King Canute gesture. For who can hold back the tides of time? It’s as senseless as milking moonbeams for miracles. Yet rejecting the old is in sync with old American traditions. There’s an embarrassment of artistic, historic, literate riches which one can point out here in a set of the nation’s reoccurring key words: The Promised Land, Progress, Superabundance, Innocence, Rejuvenation, Success, Opportunity, Ingenuity, Technology, Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Founding Fathers, Isolationism.

72A culture’s traditions are like a landscape. Whether one pays attention to it or not, one walks the land. It is an environment which conditions the air one breaths, the water one drinks, the thoughts one thinks and the dreams one dreams.

  • 39 “A poem, on the rising glory of America” (1771) by Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Philip Freneau; onli (...)
  • 40 Arthur Barlow, R. R .Howison, “Naming of Virginia : First Description of the Indians, the Lost Colo (...)

73Consistent with America’s implicit beliefs, its values, assumptions and thought processes, age rejection is a form of spiritually seeking a Promised Land wherein, as Freneau and Brackenridge wrote in 1771, “Paradise a new / Shall flourish, by no second Adam lost. / No dang’rous tree or deathful fruit shall grow”.39 It’s in harmony with a materialistic belief that Americans can achieve a more congenial environment than anywhere else in the world could offer. That it’s “a land of plenty,” where the “soil is the most plentful, sweet, fruitful, and wholesome of all the world.”40 All of which is interwoven with a moral and psychological process which claims that in America it is “natural” to expect regeneration, for here – to quote Thoreau

  • 41 Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Conclusion”, in : Carl Bode, Ed., The Portable Thoreau (New York, The (...)

74– “There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”41

75Then there’s the US insistence on its all-American success story. The nation’s dominant narrative. Opportunity, self-made man, social mobility. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Read Barack Hussein Obama II in 2008 as its latest national incarnation.) Which success is not an automatic entitlement. “America has been good to me”, as Marlon Brando said, “but that wasn’t a gift.”42

  • 43 In Frost’s January, 1961, Washington, D.C., inaugural poem “The Gift Outright”.
  • 44 $ 750 billion is a 2010 estimate. The DOD budget has progressively been scaled down since the end o (...)

76The United States has been encircled by the felicitous accident of its protective geography and well protected by the technology of its military security. It has won an inordinate number of wars. “The deed of gift was many deeds of war,” as Robert Frost said at John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration.43 Since World War Two it has been strengthened by the Pentagon of “fortress America”, with a recent war time Defense budget of around $ 750 billion.44 These shields of safety have guaranteed a domestic distance and home front innocence, far away from the rest of the world. Most of the time.

77Many of America’s fundamental institutions exist in frozen time, almost ageless. Such as the 1776 Declaration of Independence, the 1787 Constitution. They presently exist as the unique continuity and antiquity of the USA’s pillars of political order. Like the great slab which does not age from 1968’s Kubrick’s & Clarke’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey film; which stay forever young. While some people seriously now wonder like good children in the United States: And what do the Founding Fathers think? As if they stayed forever young and present, an omnipresent Supreme Court of beneficent Methuselahs.

78Finally the USA has been spared from experiencing and learning from the world’s cruel school of adversity. Compared to the rest of the world, most normal, middle-class Americans of the 19th, 20th , 21st centuries did not experience mass deportations, executions, rapes, devastated cities and foreign invasions. Yes, there was the War of 1812, the South in the Civil War, and recently 9/11. But how very unlike they have been from that very hard school of adversity on native soil which leads the Russians, for example, to call the Second World War – in which they lost about thirty million Russians – Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́ (aka: “ВОВ”), the Great Patriotic War. Americans don’t know that language.

79One is young in the American sense because one is shielded, protected, hasn’t experienced those slicing things which cut, scar, and age one. Which line the face and blister the soul.

80Young behind shields.

  • 45 Lillian B. Rubin, 60 on Up : The Truth about Aging in America (Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press, 2007) (...)

81So is the deep, old tradition of American youthfulness – which subsequently nourishes an anti-aging attitude – really a kind of island mentality? American culture puts high premium on youth. You’d better stay young. “Getting old probably isn’t something anyone in any society looks forward to,” wrote Lillian B. Rubin, professor of Interpretative Sociology at CUNY; “but for us Americans, it seems downright un-American.”45

III. The Major Issues

82The puzzle of Boomer rejection of aging and the US tradition of rejecting the old has at least eleven jagged parts. I suggest these are: (1) futurism; (2) positive-thinking; (3) political counter alliances; (4) work; (5) US popular culture; (6) body culture; (7) role models for aging, anti-aging, illness and death; (8) aging and patrimony; (9) technology & culture; (10) change adjustment; (11) Europeans versus North Americans.

83This argument seeks to move from issues which are mainly social, public, Gesellschaft and and oriented toward sociéte to those which are more cultural, private, Gemeinschaft and are oriented toward communauté. One is surveying subjects about changing lives now being lived. Now you see them, now you don’t. It’s a 1960s history in progress. The “long 60s”. They’re UFOs; ubiquitous flagrant originals whose story goes on.

1. Unbounded Imagination: Futurism

  • 46 A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Ed. J.P.Mayer, trans. George Lawrence

84First, there’s the importance of the US sense of futurism for the aging Boomer generation. A value always of special importance in America, but even more so now for this group whose future precipitously recedes. “Democratic nations care but little for what has been,“ as Alexis de Tocqueville pointed out in Democracy in America, ”but are haunted by visions of what will be; in this direction their unbounded imagination grows and dilates beyond all measure.”46

  • 47 Roberta Price, Across the Great Divide : a Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture (Albuquerque : Uni (...)

85A fundamental ethos of older Americans who espouse anti-aging is futurism in the sense that life’s meaning and one’s personal fulfillment lies in what’s to come, not what’s been. The abundance of US science fiction culminating in the 1960s was one proof of this, a futuristic smoking gun. (Exhibit A: the work of Kurt Vonnegut). While US Boomer Roberta Price in her recent Across the Great Divide: a Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture (2010) in conclusion exuberantly quoted Paul McCartney’s near-mystical claim that the Sixties are what will be – not what was.47 Or, imagine, as John Lennon sang.

  • 48 Judith Graham, " ‘Elderly’ No More - The New Old Age - Caring and Coping," New York Times, April 19 (...)

86As a group they constantly defy and deny a noun or modifying quality that’s heavy with age. American Boomers from 55 to 65 and moving upward consistently now refuse the wording “old”, “elderly” or “senior” to describe their present state – said Dr. Alexander Smith, 38, assistant professor of medicine at the University of California; because “It’s not just terminology that’s at issue here. It’s our underlying attitudes about aging.”48

  • 49 Douglas T. Miller, Marion Nowak, The Fifties : The Way We Really Were (New York : Doubleday & Co. I (...)
  • 50 Or, as Barbara Ehrenreich sees it, seeks to blindside the audience with shallow optimism ; Barbara (...)

87A conspicuous proof of the mainstream, optimistic consensus among older Americans for a forward-looking attitude about what will be has specially been visible in the USA’s single largest mass circulation magazine since the late 1980s: Modern Maturity, American Association of Retired Persons, AARP. This magazine’s sumptuous brew is to the Boomers what the top mass magazine Reader’s Digest once was to the “Happy Home Corporation and Baby Factory” adult generation of the US 1950s.49 While The Reader’s Digest tried to condense awareness, AARP – explicitly marketed to an American consumer demographic 55 and upward – tries to expand perceptions.50 AARP’s motto: “To Serve, Not To Be Served.”

  • 51 Modern Maturity –January-February1999, 65.
  • 52 “Going Blind” by Carolyn See, in: Modern Maturity - September-October 1997,Vol. 40, Number 5, 48.
  • 53 @ : “http://www.aarp.org/magazine/”.

88Although AARP packaging has changed as it’s developed under different names, its contents have essentially remained the same. Content analysis shows headlines and texts such as: “A cure for cancer? Not yet, but the news is good.” – (Modern Maturity, Jan.-Feb. 199951). Or, in the conclusion to a 1997 article written by a woman going blind: “The wonder drug any sick person waits for is like the Maltese Falcon. The journey toward it matters, even if the destination is unreachable….[For] our disease remind us of the beauty & fragility of our world. So that what might have been a dull third act in our ever-longer lives might be golden, full of suspense and amazing surprise.” (Modern Maturity, Sep/Oct.9752). While one of the magazine’s 2012 taglines and a sample article proudly proclaim: “Feel Great. Save Money. Have Fun” – “Age-Proof Your Brain. 10 easy ways to keep your mind fit forever. “53

  • 54 Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One : An Anglo-American Tragedy (London : Penguin Books, 1951 ; first publ. (...)
  • 55 Judith Graham, “ ‘Elderly” No More,” New York Times, April 19, 2012.

89Pointing out this tone and content in AARP is not meant to turn this analysis into a mockumentary. But there is an American anthropological exceptionalism at work here. As Evelyn Waugh pointed out about the United States in The Loved One (1948): “Here generations of students have come from all over the world to dream the dreams of youth. Here scientists and statesman still unknown dreamed of their future triumphs.”54 The American concept, myth, and self-imposed mission is a construction of wide vistas that open into the future. A belief which AARP reinforces since, as Harry Moody, 67, director of academic affairs for AARP has said, in America: “Everyone wants to live longer, but no one wants to be old.”55

90It’s a cornucopia of hope. AARP magazine is packed with ads for good optimistic stuff that readers are invited to buy, mostly medicine or machines. Close to 50% of the ads in a typical issue engage the reader with “reduce”, “help”, “repair”, “comfort”, “get your life back”, & all for a better and “different way to fight” aging. As noted: to serve, not to be served.

91AARP is thoroughly anti-aging, all about a think-positive future; like the legendary magic mirror from Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray or the European fairy tale Snow White. But this is not presented as a fiction, a fairy-tale. There’s no flavoring with the salt of irony here. The magazine is America’s particular expression of a universal as a positive future which can be purchased. It’s a consumer good and a state of mind.

2. Positive Thinking: “I Can”

92Our second major issue is positive-thinking. However contested its application, the implicit sense of progress in positive-thinking has been a secular faith in America since colonial times. (“Paradise a new” – the promised land – was always just over the horizon.) In AARP the limits of progress are generally not discussed. Death? Conspicuous by virtue of its absence in AARP is an obituary column.

93AARP does not have a monopoly on America’s typical go-for-it, turn-it-on, positivist attitude. For example, in the Anglo-American best seller book market for older female self-improvement, a conspicuous hit has been Feel Fab Forever (2006, 2nd edn.). “Fab” evoking 60s British slang as idiomatic as swinging London’s Georgy Girl (1966) or the “Fab Four” (i.e., the Beatles). Feel Fab Forever’s authors gaily declare: ”If you don’t feel gorgeous on the inside, you won’t look it. Simple as that.”

  • 56 “Couéism,” in : Frank W. Hoffman, William G. Bailey, Mind & Society Fads (Binghamton, New York : Ha (...)

94Much of this positive-thinking is rehashed Couéism. Dr. Emile Coué was the charismatic French healer and physical therapist whose philosophy of autosuggestion was transformed into a USA 1920s “advertising slogan of exceptionally persuasive power” when he first visited the USA in 1922. Coué’s “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better” took the States by storm.56 Emphasizing health not sickness. Teaching his patients “I Can” – addressing and controlling the imagination, the subconscious mind – and not “I Will” – which only commands the conscious, obstinate, forgetful mind. Coué’s spectacular success in the burgeoning new mass medias and photogravure of the fad-filled Twenties made a long and lasting impression.

  • 57 Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged By Culture (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004), both q (...)

95Fast forward to the present and one finds that Boomer aging – Boomers and their attendant agglomeration – is about individual responsibility; your victory or your defeat. “Forget others; in the United States aging is about me and me alone,” as the cultural critic and social activist Margaret Morganroth Gullette (b. c. 1948) of Brandeis University’s Women Studies Research Center wrote in her seminal Aged by Culture (2004). “The future is privatised” – in both senses of that last powerful “p” word.57 Again, by way of private goods by which the older American can get into and hold onto one’s very own wide-open-spaces attitude, plus have an island mentality where you take care of you and yours first.

96For which one needs a Think Positive state of mind. After Coué this has been a popular teaching which addresses young to old – reinforced by hosts of successful homegrown Optimists With a Vengeance. One lineage in the 20th century for this positive vein is Dale Carnegie’s 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People; Lowell Thomas’ 1937, Adventures Among the Immortals; Dale Carnegie’s 1952, The Power of Positive Thinking; through Scott Witt’s 1983 bestseller How to Be Twice As Smart; Nathaniel Branden’s 1994’s hit The Six Pillars of Self-esteem; New Age psychic Uri Geller ‘s bestselling 1996 Mindpower Kit; and Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 bestseller self-help guide The Secret.

97The decade of the 1960s – the era when Boomer’s experienced their first full flowering as adults – was the chronological core of their own think-positive attitude. It was an era which brimmed over with the optimism of Peace Now, flower power, Aquarianism, communal living, Tolkien, Woodstock Nation, Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, bandits on hoppers, the food cooperative, the magic bus, The Whole Earth Catalog, keep-you-head-together headbands. The list is long and the dreams were sonorous. It was an embarrassment of optimism, a generous and highly concentrated decade of violently Positive Thinking.

  • 58 Todd Gitlin, The Sixties : Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York : Bantam Books, 3rd revised edn. 1 (...)

98Even ironic Todd Gitlin concluded his master work The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage with – for all the era’s darkness mixed with light – with a call to action for unfinished business. “ ’It was not granted you to complete the task,’ said Rabbi Tarfon nineteen hundred years ago, ’and yet you my not give it up.’ ”58 Gitlin expresses more than simple optimism and hope; it’s a national tradition.

99But, for older Americans, the Positive Thinking attitude is only the one sharp side of a two-edgèd sword. The other side is deadly dull or remarkably bitter sweet. To cite a 2012 quote from Gullette, in the United States:

  • 59 Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged By Culture (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004), both q (...)

100 “society mostly adheres to a decline ideology that equates getting older with getting worse, usually from a health, and often from a financial, standpoint. Countering this is positive aging ideology that insists that many things get better with age. You’ve got a tug of war between these two views and over the direction of change that aging represents.”59

101Remember the Jimmy Kimmel Live! joke about eating hard candy and ignorance about lap tops.

Positive Thinking’s Dark Side

102Thus the progressivism and self-determination of Positive Thinking – blended with the potent, against-the-mainstream, Boomer tradition of Do Your Own Thing – has another twist. There’s a Darth Vader dark side. If things get really bad then maybe death is best. Euthanasia. Here’s the pro-active force of positivism. Think big. Things get worse, but you can make them better. As US Boomer comedian Bill Maher (b.1956) said, suicide means: “You can’t fire me, I quit”. Outlaw justice.

  • 60 Walter D. Glanze, The Mosby Medical Encyclopedia (New York : NAL-Plume Book, 1985) 274.

103Euthanasia means taking control when one’s lost control. Anti-aging as literally stopping the aging process; terminating life. The civil right to die. As America’s standard Mosby Medical Encyclopaedia points out: euthanasia means “deliberately bringing about the death of a person who is suffering from an incurable disease....[it’s] both a legal and ethical issue” – and “legally, euthanasia is murder and therefore against the law.”60 Unless it is transformed into an acceptable medical treatment.

104Dr. Jack Kevorkian (1928-2011), the Armenian-American pathologist and graduate of University of Michigan’s medical school, was the modern American who most effectively forced the essential question about mercy killing into the USA’s great public forum in recent decades. That question being: “Is euthanasia the ultimate truth about aging and individual responsibility?” Which question Kevorkian posed at great personal and professional cost and with a typically American sense of performance, of entertaining ideas.

105His methods stand in stark contrast to that of the conspicuous European case of the same era, the quadriplegic Spanish fisherman and writer Ramón Sampedro (1943 –1998). Kevorkian made his case for assisted suicide with P. T. Barnum flair, love and attention to US mass media and popular culture. Sampedro’s case was a lyrical, private tragedy. It exhibited a deeply European sense of dignity and quiet good humor that was powerfully translated to cinema by the Spanish movie Mar Adentro (2004, The Sea Inside).

106Dr. Kevorkian was otherwise known in the States as “Dr. Death”. He and his cause had such notoriety that a wry, thoughtful, almost jester-looking Kevorkian made the cover of Time Magazine on May 31, 1993, with the banner headline: “Dr. Jack Kevorkian is back on his crusade. Is he an angel of mercy or a murderer?”61 Well, to live outside the law, you must be honest.

107Independent-thinking HBO made a four-star-rated, highly successful movie about his life – You Don’t Know Jack (2010) – starring Al Pacino (as Kevorkian), Susan Sarandon, Danny Huston, and John Goodman, and strongly supported by Dr. Death himself.62 In which Kevorkian was brazenly outspoken about the USA’s privatized death industry; quoted as saying: “Oh, the lingering of death. What a business! Keep death alive. Hospitals don’t make money otherwise. Drug companies either. If you’re rich and you have the money, you can pay to die. But the poor, they can only afford to stick it out and suffer.”63

108Kevorkian’s real-life activities were carried out in a combination of a good-natured, arrogant, generous, self-righteousness ways – and ultimately in a deeply naïve fashion. For helping people accomplish self-willed, self-chosen acts of euthanasia, Kevorkian was finally put on trail in his home state of Michigan and dispatched to prison in 1999 on a 10-to-25-year prison sentence for second-degree murder. No mercy for mercy killing.

  • 64 Article Nine, US Constitution : “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not (...)

109Kevorkian lost his medical license and served eight years in Michigan’s Coldwater prison. On his release, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, he never practiced euthanasia again. But, until he died, the puckish Kevorkian actively campaigned for American health care reform; You Don’t Know Jack was made and distributed to great acclaim. While Kevorkian kept lecturing nation-wide about the USA’s need for euthanasia, and on topics such as tyranny, the criminal justice system, politics, the Ninth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and Armenian culture.64

3. Political Counter Alliances: the Power of Counterbalances

110Positive thinking also means putting aspirations into action. With age groups in America this has been developed through a pattern of competition and affiliation. Thus the third important element of political counter alliances – and how this generation performs, competes, and distinguishes both with other generations and among their own group.

111In the USA competition is generally nurtured as a form of personal affirmation which can be achieved in a depersonalized group. As Stewart and Bennett argued in American Cultural Patterns: “Cooperation is given for the sake of action and it does not imply that the Americans are yielding their principles. They are in fact simply following one of the dominant values in American culture, that of doing....Cooperating to get something done is more important than the personal relationships among the doers.”

  • 65 Edward C. Stewart, Milton J. Bennett, American Cultural Patterns : A Cross-cultural Perspective (Ya (...)

112Whatever the group, everyone is in it for personal interest. This is no problem. Americans “pursue their own personal goals while cooperating with others who, likewise, pursue their own. They accept the goals of the group, but if their expectations are unfulfilled, they then feel free to leave and join another group.”65

113Is this self-reliance or opportunism?

  • 66 Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, ibid., 209.

114The political scientist and international relations expert Hans Mogenthau (1904-1980) defined counter alliances as the “most frequent configuration within a balance-of-power system”.66 They exist both within and between nations. Counter alliances prosper when a group defends its values and independence against another force to which the balance of power gives rise. It is most frequently manifested as the opposition of two alliances, with each pursuing its own goals, with each defending the independence of its members against the aspirations of the other coalition.

115As Karl Mannheim argued in complement with Morgenthau, a generation is by no means monolithic. And in modern times the force of generations has increasingly become a change agent. The dynamic of change appears in the competing groups both within each generation and in the larger opposition of different generations. Alliances and counter alliances form to support their common, individual interests.

116Both the US oldster opting for euthanasia or the one living on and extending their life by whatever means possible address and contend with the fully enriched and extended meaning that “aging” takes on in this day and age.

117Age groups have also increasingly helped to distribute the balance of power in the United States.

  • 67 Ezra Bowen, Ed., 1960-1970, vol. VII in Time-Life Books "This Fabulous Century" series (New York : (...)

118First, the old have stayed eager and gained power with age. The year 1960 saw the creation of the first retirement town in Arizona. By 1970 similar communities existed in the Middle West, the East Coast, New England, California and Florida.67 Grouped together in “sunset villages” many residents became politically active. They all shared the common issue of health care. The American Association of Retired People helped to politicize them – while AARP, in turn, became one of America’s major political lobbies.

  • 68 The youth vote balance was maintained through the Reagan years, when Carter polled only 44 % of the (...)

119Second, youth culture, in turn, acquired voting power in national elections in 1971 with the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 years old. At which time the vote of this new cohort was evenly distributed across the US political spectrum. It was a voice for youth either with or against age. Though, over time, more against than with.68

  • 69 Jane Eisner, Taking Back the Vote : Getting American Youth Involved in Our Democracy (Boston : Beac (...)

120US politicians and young people had campaigned for the youth vote as far back as the Civil War. During WWII – when “25 percent of those serving in the army were between eighteen and twenty years old; 37 percent of the navy; 50 percent of the marines” – they argued for it but did not get it.69 The “generation gap” – that friction, fear, and threat, that phrase born from the height of the 60s era – was the creative, dynamic tension that gave birth to youth vote power.

121The 60s catch phrase “do your own thing” was claimed by the young. But it was in fact a shared, all-American refrain that went back in the language and culture to at least the pre-Civil War era. The “generation gap” was the time’s special power that altered the nation’s fundamental institutions and branded a generation defined by the civil and domestic strife of age opposition.

122The new voting power demanded by, given to, taken and possessed by the young was an unprecedented heritage established from one youth generation to the next in the USA. It was a new music – rock ’n’ roll civics that became hip-hop electorate – never before allowed in the United states; with impulsive expression, a driving beat, loud, harsh, exuberant and possibly immature. So be it. Thus was that rarely-created, powerful tool – a new Amendment to the US Constitution – created.

123But the full force of this 18 to 29 year old age group was not maintained. The youth vote that carried great weight and played a decisive role in the national election process lay dormant for about a generation after the 26th Amendment was enacted to give young Americans power. It was fully rejuvenated and nourished with Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election, continued on in diminished strength in 2012 for the Democratic party (though increased in some states like Florida and Arizona).70 Could it be revitalized in 2016?

124When first enacted in the early 70s the US youth vote prospered in even counter balance. In the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections, the Republican party were inept at mobilizing this force. Mitt Romney’s Paul Ryan, the Republican party’s relatively young, 42 year-old, vice-presidential candidate, was soundly unpopular with most young voters. As was Ms. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s vice-presidential match. Why?

125Though Ryan and Palin were young, and Palin certainly lacked experience, they were deficient in the kind of progressive ideas that young voters in America wanted – and they did not project youthful charisma. They sounded like father’s obedient, servile follower (Ryan) or acted like a hard-bitten, life-long overachiever (Palin).

126The youth vote that first made law through Boomer actions in 1971 gave each successive young US generation a permanent place at the table of national power. Youth concerns would become a permanent force to be reckoned with. But, as a counter alliance, the Republican Party has yet to find a way to tap into this lasting force.

127In 1930s Western Europe, young people were very active defending tradition and order. (Horrifically so with Adolph Hitler’s Hitlerjugend.) As their support of the Democratic Party shows, US young people are not by nature independent rebels. Could it be, specially in 21st century America, that the grand old white male party simply cannot connect with the diversity issues of younger voters? They are too old in soul and not young-spirited enough?

128Third, regarding performance, competition, and group distinctions, perhaps the single strongest contemporary example of US counter alliances as the renewal of old political ways reborn was the flare-up of the USA’s version of the Occupy movement. With Occupy Wall Street of 2011-12 and its coast-to-coast cousins, one found the current appearance of 60s anti-establishment movements; using a similar technique by a different agenda, which linked Boomers with their following US Generations X and Y. With the Occupy movement, social protest had become almost as alive and surprising in the early 21st century as it was back in the 1960s.

  • 71 Editors of Time Magazine, What is Occupy ? : Inside the Global Movement (New York : Time, December (...)

129In November 2011, Time Magazine published an illuminating booklet: What is Occupy? Inside the Global Movement.71 Wherein one finds youth and age counter posed and complemented; aging boomers defying youth by maintaining their place in a US Progressivism whose battle has never seemed to end.

130What is Occupy? has one double-page spread that contrasts and complements a young and old American, circa 2011. On the left one sees young Ms. Katie Cristiano, organic farmer, in her mid-20s. On the facing right page is Ms. Marcia Malkoff, social worker, age about 65. Both defined the US version of the international, middle-class Occupy movement.

131Ms. Cristiano declared: “I don’t think it’s a democratic or a libertarian movement. It’s a group of people who are seeking to have their issues and their voices heard regardless of their background.” Ms. Malkoff added: “I’ve marched many, many times: antiwar, antinuclear, women’s rights. I was excited that young people were getting involved again. I would like to see it spread.” Ageless sisters in arms.

132In What is Occupy? contrasting photos express their body language full forward, hands gripping their protest posters, each exhibiting a similar gesture of readiness. They pose as fully gendered American “Marianne” figures. This artifact’s visual anthropology is thoroughly anti-aging; about a think-positive future, a legendary magic mirror provided by a US culture that thinks up beat and seizes the moment. It’s inherently populist in the US sense of a grassroots movement which affirms the rights and virtues of common people. In Occupy’s case a David versus Goliath, mouse versus the lion, an average Americans versus Multinational Corporations narrative which was directed against the growing monster of economic and social inequality in the USA.

133Yet, at the end of the day, the alliance of old and young in the Occupy Movement was a temporary eruption. Do youthful social expressions have a special weakness? They are occasional, temporary, by nature as impermanent as youth itself. The 24th Amendment would suggest not.

4. Work

134Social issues which concern older Americans have helped to keep aging Boomers at the forefront of public attention. A prominent public and private concern has been the benefits of employment as both necessity and ideal. Thus comes the fourth puzzle piece of our problématique: the development of US attitudes and laws about the older working American which encourage age and employment equality for Boomers and their predecessors, a system of principles applied by law which ensure civil rights for the aged.

135This is an anti-aging issue because it’s about how time’s and nature’s limits on the productive human life span have been extended by society and culture. A frontier has been pushed forward. And new territory, complete with fresh rules and regulations, has to be built.

  • 72 Stewart and Bennet, op. cit.

136A variety of factors cause people to work after the age of 55 in developed countries. Attitude and identity have a lot to do with it in the USA. “The essence of the American style of work,” as Stewart and Bennett argued in American Cultural Patterns is “enlightened self-interest”.72 People are employed far more for their own individual well being than for any one company’s benefit. One reason people wish to keep on working is to maintain the essential element of selfhood expressed in work.

  • 73 Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (New York : Harper Books) 97.

137You are what you do in US society. As the American philosopher Eric Hoffer argued: “You cannot gauge the intelligence of an American by talking with him: you must work with him. The American polishes and refines his way of doing things – even the most commonplace – the way the French of the 17th century polished their maxims.”73

  • 74 See : John Dean, “Heroes in a World of Global Connection : U.S. and European Heroism Compared” in : (...)

138The heroes, leaders, and ordinary folk in the culture deeply express this affirmation process. It is exhibited in both the great and the everyday. In the great it’s specially visible in the pantheon of heroes which dominate US civilization from the late 19th century through the present time – in America’s Pathfinder, Reformer, Salesman, Military, Political, Outcast and Thinker hero figures.74

139Amid ordinary people the work-self dynamic is affirmed in the common teachings of movies that extend from the good Southern doctor in D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915), to the farm workers in Grapes of Wrath (1939), the football coaches in Hoosiers (1986) or Friday Night Lights (book: 1990; movie: 2004), the secretary in Working Girl (1988), the weatherman in Groundhog Day (1993), the ordinary police chief in Fargo (1995), the teen journalist of Almost Famous (2000), the amateur naturalist in Grizzly Man (2005), or the CIA analyst in Zero Dark Thirty (2012 ). In the popular culture since the advent of electric delivery systems – with movies, radio, TV, internet – these US examples can be multiplied by the millions. (We’ll soon see how the nation’s popular figures play their part with regard to role models for aging, illness, death.)

140Sure, since the post-World War One era the valuable combination of work and self has been polluted by the celebrity in US mass media and in the contemporary era by the digitally-omnipresent net and telecommunications mix which saturates US and European civilization. (A problem first brilliantly targeted in Daniel J. Boorstin’s The Image [1961].) The combination is exaggerated to fantastic extremes by the superhero in the popular culture. But the power of the essential combination remains. The lesson is clearly repeated over and again: you are what you do.

  • 75 Bruce Fallick and Jonathan Pingle, "The Effect of Population Aging on Aggregate Labor Supply in the (...)

141Economists and social scientists argue that “as they age, the boomers will continue to redefine hours of work, conditions of work, and where work is conducted.” And thus “efforts to try to model their labor market behavior” is constantly challenged.75 Still, though Americans are defined by work, one finds that the aggregate labor force participation rate of older persons (aged 55 and over) ebbs and flows in the US. Beginning with 55 years and older, most Americans spend their time in unemployed retirement, with some portion spent in the labor force, and some with a functional disability who do paid or volunteer work, or who stay permanently unemployed.

142When the economy is flush and older Americans have other sources of income – such as social security benefits, corporate retirement insurance, veterans’ payments, and public assistance – they don’t necessarily work full time. To be fair, work’s importance in the USA since WWII among older workers is generally first of all practical, secondly a matter of self-definition. But, as visible with heroes, leaders, and ordinary folk – and shall be shown again with the movie hit Cocoon – it is still a cultural obsession.

  • 76 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, (...)
  • 77 "Aggregate Income And Labor Force Participation of the Aged" by Juanita M. Kreps, 1962, @ [PDF]

143Consider labor’s history in America. In the USA until around 1920 it meant primarily farm work; at which time – around WWI – US labor underwent a major shift from farm to factory, to industrial labor; and following WWII to middle-class white-collar and pink-collar labor. In this context between 1890 and 1960 the older worker declined; in particular, men aged 65 and over fell from 68% in 1890 to approximately 31% of the work force in 1960.76 In the USA by the end of 1960 it was estimated that “fewer than one in five of all men 65 or older (and fewer than one in twenty-five of the women) had full-time jobs”.77

  • 78 In this same time period more women have been working longer and harder ; thus among female workers (...)
  • 79 "More older Americans staying in the job market" by Don Lee - Tribune Washington Bureau - September (...)

144The current Boomer upward wave is a striking factor. In the last two decades the labor participation rates of older males in developed countries – 55 years and older – has been higher in the USA than in comparative nations (those being: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and the OECD average).78 At the same time, by fall 2012, official sources in Washington declared “nearly one in five Americans ages 65 and older are working or looking for jobs — the highest in almost half a century.”79 It’s hard news. On the one hand ageism was outlawed. On the other, older Americans seem back to where they were in the 1960s.

How Outlawed?

145The right of older Americans to work nowadays follows a long legal trajectory that began with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (aka: ADEA). The ’67 ADEA’s purpose was to protect the employment rights of vulnerable populations, just as the 1964 Civil Rights Act following Kennedy’s assassination sought to bar racial discrimination in public accommodations and the 1965 Act (aka: Voting Rights Act) extended the elective franchise to millions of once-excluded members of minority groups. These were institutional reinventions of America by the progressive political forces of the 1960s.

  • 80 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, (...)

146Prior to the 1967 law the older worker in the United States had practically no protection. Ageism was de facto in practice; just as segregation had been. (With ageism now de jure or de facto for civil service work in France and many other European nations.) With the new law ageism – “defined as discriminatory beliefs, attitudes, and practices regarding older adults”80 – became illegal.

  • 81 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, (...)
  • 82 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, (...)

147Following further debate, ADEA was refreshed and updated in 1986 when mandatory retirement was abolished (and re-detailed again in 1991). But it’s not automatically easier to find or hold onto a job if you are older in the USA nowadays. Older adults are still more likely to be coerced into retirement; and hiring disparities are more difficult for those who have already been laid off or who seek work after retirement.81 For example, at the height of the 2008-2009 Great Recession in the USA, the unemployment rate for the US population at large increased 70% – but for US adults 55 and older it increased by 106%.82

  • 83 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, (...)

148Age discrimination claims have increased to unprecedented levels since 1990 and are now up to over 25,000 a year. In these cases, for some the law works well – for others, not. The difference regarding the new laws against age-based discrimination and ageism lies in which group gains. When the ADEA is implemented and enforced, most successful ADEA cases against employers are wrongful termination suits (75.9%) which are brought by men (82%) laid off from white-collar or managerial positions (79%).83 Otherwise employers have been very successful using rationalized discriminatory practices such as “bona fide occupational qualification” and “reasonable factor other than age” demands against the traditionally vulnerable groups.

  • 84 Adam Cohen, "After 40 Years, Age Discrimination Still Gets Second-Class Treatment", New York Times, (...)

149Thus the campaign for social and economic justice first set in place by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 – which diminished age-based discrimination, anti-ageism – has worked better for some than for others. So far. Improvement lies in three key procedures. The older worker needs to find better ways to successfully contend with the “bona fide occupational qualification” and “reasonable factor other than age” demands. Better re-education and training programs are needed for older workers. And the procedure by which one files a claim of age discrimination under current ADEA needs to be made less difficult for the worker.84

5. Popular Culture

150Since the advent of a common, popular culture in antebellum, Jacksonian America amid the contentious generation before the Civil War (1861-1865) – and its astonishing acceleration and intensification ever since beginning with the injection of omnipresent, electrical-generated communications and the seismic demographic shift of urban concentration following WWI – American popular culture has consistently and often brilliantly reflected, expressed, and endorsed the spirit of the times. It has offered answers when they otherwise cannot be found. It has validated wrongs with satire (that art of contemporary insight) or laid claim to achieve what cannot yet be won in everyday American life.

151Culture is paradoxical. Promises are broken. Ideals are not realized. One thing is said, another thing done. Even if Americans don’t find their ideal job in the ideal world, even if the Age Discrimination and Employment Act only helped with but didn’t solve the problems of work, dignity, self-affirmation and necessity for everyone, there remained that soul-deep sense among Americans that they have to do something which shows – to themselves at least – what they are because of what they do.

152Thus the great success in the culture – as the ADEA elders’ right-to-work laws were being hammered out in 1985-86 – of the Cocoon story on film and in print. Cocoon movie and book came out in the two installments of 1985 (Cocoon, dir. Ron Howard) and 1988 (Cocoon, the Return, dir. Daniel Petrie). It’s opening on the edge of the ADEA’s reinvigoration helped to assure the movie excellent box office in the USA. Cocoon grossed $ 76,100,000 and achieved the full attention of bestseller status.85

  • 86 David Saperstein, Cocoon : A Novel (New York : Jove-Berkley Publ. Group, 1985), 186.

153Cocoon is a fountain of youth story – immediately directed to the Boomer’s existing parents and grand parents, and a standard replay thereafter. It’s a blend of gritty, scrub-pine, dirt-bright, retirees-in-Florida realism with Theodore Sturgeon-Kilgore Trout science fiction and fantasy. The story exhibits how older Americans – men and women, crook and solid citizen, the sick and the well – can work and serve. The story’s human protagonists are redeemable precisely because they are old. Because, as Cocoon’s text says, their “human bodies...had reached a certain stage in the aging process. The muscles, tissues, and bones of the older Earth people had begun degenerating. It was only at a stage of fairly advanced again that rejuvenation and change would be effective.”86

  • 87 David Saperstein, Cocoon : A Novel (New York : Jove-Berkley Publ. Group, 1985), 200.

154In the parlance of the 1960s, the USA is “The World”. It is Planet Earth in Cocoon. Wherein one of the leading extra-terrestrials who makes the tale’s fountain of youth possible, realizes “they had great respect for the individual on this planet. But he knew that society at large had little respect for individuals. Look at how they shunned their old, their poor, and injured ones they called unfortunate.”87 While the world of the extra-terrestrials would supply them with what the USA demands, but lacked: work they could live for.

  • 88 Janet Maslin, "Screen : ’Cocoon’ Opens" (1985), New York Times, published June 21, 1985 ; online @  (...)

155This expression of popular culture, as Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote in her 1985 review of Cocoon, was “ this season’s reigning fairy tale”, was “beatific science fiction” that could finally “bring a daydream to earth”.88 What the ADEA could only give in part – in fits and starts, and still to this day has never quite accomplished – was offered up by the popular culture: “the folklore of industrial man”.

  • 89 Susan Goodman, “She Lost It At The Movies : Premier critic Pauline Kael takes a tough look at life (...)

156Once it’s there and maintains some contemporary relevancy, a work of popular culture is constantly recycled through the mass communications systems. Like the Occupy Movement, only more so, movies are a multigenerational blend. The US movie industry is as essential to US hearts, minds, and bodies as la cuisine is to France. “In front of a screen we’re still kids,” said Pauline Kael in a March-April, 1998, Modern Maturity. “When the theater lights go down we all want to be charmed and entertained. We’re lovers who are let down all the time and yet still go on loving.”89

157Yet does popular culture of this kind mean that anti-aging of this kind – all charm, where death shall have no dominion, that there shall be no limits to what Americans can be because of what they do – is only foolish and deceitful? No. The visionary precedes the visible; conception comes before the concrete. America’s transcontinental railroad would never have been built (1863-1869) without the visionary input of its US prophet Asa Whitney (1797-1872). Lincoln imagined a union that had disappeared. Expect more, really expect more, and some day you might get it.

158In Cocoon’s case what’s striking is its popular culture endorsement of the power of science and technology – however transcendental and extraterrestrial – to extend life.

  • 90 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1965), op cit.

159Through technology comes abundance, as Charles Beard affirmed of American expectations. There’s a secular mysticism to the thing in American life. Cocoon’s underlying message is that modern science has miraculous powers waiting to unfold. One gets, as C. S. Lewis wrote, “the scent of a flower we have not yet found, the echo of a tune we have not yet heard.”90

160Here is ankh, nectar, fruit of Eden’s forbidden tree.

The Deadly Embraces of Popular Culture

161It hasn’t always been this way. In popular culture recall in contrast the many US death and dying movies of the World Word Two era. Death could not be denied. During The Fighting Forties the sting of death had to be accepted and integrated as a fact of life. Yet, in the US popular culture the World War Two era, Americans extended themselves because of the power of death, by embracing death, through visible or invisible spirits of the dead, by way of ghosts and guardian angels. As witnessed by that era’s popular culture, death was good – specially for patriotic Americans.

162This abounds in Hollywood’s war stories. Such as A Guy Named Joe (1943, dir. Victor Fleming) in which the ghost of Pete Sandige – played by avuncular Spencer Tracy – is dead and present as a guardian guide in order to coach a pilot-in-training Ted Randall – played by the happy-go-lucky, ever-rambunctious-son figure Van Johnson. Or the grateful dead played by Charles Laughton as the ghost Sir Simon de Canterville in The Canterville Ghost (1944), and the movie’s humorous collaboration between the dead and the living. Or in Michael Powell’s great trans-Atlantic hit Stairway to Heaven (1946) in which the dead and the living collaborate and compete, to the humane advantage of both.

  • 91 James Gilbert, Redeeming Culture : American Religion in an Age of Science (Chicago : University of (...)
  • 92 See Eisenhower’s UN speech of December 8, 1953, @ : "http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/ research/o (...)
  • 93 Movie Review : Bigger Than Life (1956), August 3, 1956 – “ Screen : Tax of Tedium ; ’Bigger Than Li (...)

163A nation, a people, a generation are defined by many kinds of longings in their shared narratives. But, in post-WWII America, a faith of religious intensity in modern science played a big part.91 The Eisenhower administration and Walt Disney collaborated in this spirit in Atoms for Peace (1953) and Our Friend the Atom (1956: book; 1957: film).92 Another classic motif in US Boomer movie and TV tales has been the anti-aging vaccine. On Saturday afternoon matinees back in 1956, ten-year old Boomers saw a remarkable movie Bigger Than Life, that’s been constantly re-run on cable TV ever since. Bigger Than Life is about an ill, middle-aged school teacher (played with great subtlety by James Mason) – who stops aging because of the then-new miracle drug of cortisone. “The use of some of these new therapeutic substances are worth some thought,” wrote The New York Times movie critic Bowsley Crowther when Bigger Than Life was released.93

164Remember that early-to-mid USA 1950s was the triumphal era of the US miracle drugs IPV and OPV (aka: Inactivated Poliomyelitis Vaccine, Oral Poliomyelitis Vaccine) which stopped America’s polio epidemic. In the USA the synergy of the popular culture with acts and visions of scientific progress have offered lines of communication, planted seeds of hope, that have stayed open and kept sprouting.

165There’s a deep culture flow, a line of reasoning here. Not only were PV and OPV discovered, but American technology took American mankind to the moon by 1969. The popular culture has been a seedbed of expectations, possibilities and principles about key issues of progress. It is positive thinking manifest in entertainment.

166Clearly the popular culture does not stop aging, no more than an anti-war film – be it Renoir’s La Grande Illusion (1937), Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun (1971), or Vonnegut’s and Hill’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) – stops war. But aspirations are alternatives. Truth said or hoped for, even if not realized. Or, of course, the popular culture can also function as no more than a pressure valve.

167In either case the popular culture is not monolithic. With regard to its anti-aging narratives and aspirations, it’s the sign of an optimistic, entrepreneurial questing. Resistance against what is felt to be wrong. It’s resourceful; hopes for the best against all odds. But not quite...

168For another twist on the popular culture’s various interpretations of anti-aging is its dealings with death, the horrid, the morbid, the gothic, zombies, splatter films, and other creatures from America’s psychological basement or attic. All of these genres have to take some responsibility for having played a seductively surrogate, passive, sponge-like role in US culture with regard to aging and decay. Like the dramatic change since the late 20th century in the cinematic presentation of violence in US popular culture – from a distanced experience in earlier film into a violence which the audience experienced as a personal release, a pleasure replete with all the visible pornography of rubbing, splattering blood, guts, bone and eyeballs (its mass wave initiated by US director Sam Peckinpah [1925-1984] in imitation of Akira Kurosawa [1910-1988]) – so the visible pleasures of death and decay have been encouraged.

169Miraculous though it can be, US popular culture was overwhelmed by a long tradition of odorless satisfaction, chilling voyeurism, and mind-numbing violence which in popular literature – from Poe to Stephen King – could replace the stinking reality of death with the pleasing narcotic of re-presentation, re-creation. But – beginning with late 20th horror, gothic, splatter cinema – this experience became tastier, less tasteful. In terms of Hollywood movie directors, this would be the difference between the work, say, of director James Whale (1889-1957) versus that of directors Roger Corman (b. 1926) and Sam Peckinpah (1926-1985).

170The gothic has arguably been the oldest American fictional genre in its many American forms from film to poetry, novels to architecture, fireside tales to nighttime children’s stories. It is a kaleidoscope of warnings, voyeurism, cheap thrills and the fast buck, downright knowledge, and the US commercialization of Halloween since the 1980s. Through it all, American gothic maintained an Amish-like hex power that alternately tries to scare off evil and death and entices with a sticky attraction to the rotten thing.

171To deepen this grain in the popular psychology and self-help area, the exception rather than the rule in the popular culture has been the truth-in-sentencing spirit of Kevorkian realism. In which spirit the Swiss-American psychiatrist and death studies specialist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) rightly excoriated US popular culture and notoriously declared war on the denial of death in the United States in her remarkable 1969 best-seller On Death and Dying. Anti-aging is not possible, she seemed to argue at first. One needs to look the hard truth in the face.

172Kübler-Ross’ process model for how Americans deal with death, how they’ve traditionally been stuck in the denial of death – and that there’s a natural process of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance regarding death – proved how Americans have had a specially hard time admitting (to paraphrase Mark Twain) that denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. But her tough-minded arguments eventually gave way to foggy mysticism and salacious scandal.

173Kübler-Ross’ achievement followed an odd trajectory. The longer she lived, studied, and lectured in America, the more Kübler-Ross was:

carried away by extreme currents in the culture. ...America may have played a role in her dawning sense that death does not put an end to the pursuit of happiness. ‘To die,’ Walt Whitman proclaimed in ’’Song of Myself,’ ‘is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.’...This conviction achieved parodic fulfilment in the 1970’s, when she became embroiled in scandal after it was discovered that a psychic at her California retreat center was having sex with bereaved widows who thought they were embracing their departed husbands in the dark.

  • 94 Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1951), Ch. 41.

174Here is that other odd twist in the popular culture. It can take the utterly profound and make it utterly mediocre, trivial, and banal. As it did by turning the US civil rights and anti-war revolutions of the 1960s into a consumer revolution advertised in cars, lipstick, and dishwashing powder. Kübler-Ross popularized the profound only to be diminished, in the end, by the popular. Did her case prove what Herman Melville wrote in Moby Dick, that it is “but vain to popularize profundities, and all truth is profound.”?94

6. Body Culture – A Visit to the Garage Updated.

  • 95 Chrysta Freeland, " Paychecks Tell a Tale of Unfairness" ", International Herald Tribune/New York T (...)

175The contemporary, US “Way of the World” columnist Chrysta Freeland recently asserted: “The one thing pretty much all of us in the United States agree on is the importance of equal opportunity.”95 But you can’t put in what God left out, as the Italians say. Some people naturally get more opportunities than others to begin with because of their physical make-up. Take the case of good looks. “At forty,” said George Orwell, “a man gets the face he deserves.” And a man or a woman at 50, 60, 70? What do Americans do about aging and good looks? What could be more anti-aging than trying to look young?

  • 96 Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged By Culture (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004), both q (...)

176Thus the sixth piece that falls to place amid our key issues is the value of US body culture, where popular culture becomes popularity culture. Here, in the all-American mainstream, as Gullette wrote, “Girls and women are the shock troops of age anxiety.”96 Since the USA effectively invented “teenager” in its post-WWII years, the ineffable beauty of the youth ideal was branded on the Boomers’ collective psyche.

177US body culture is about the business of how – from pre-teenage years on upward into very old – being a youthful age or looking sexy young (or having the pearly teeth, glistening hair, or silky-smooth skin that looks that way) are the primary signs of difference and superiority. Americans’ human trunks are individually encouraged by all forms of mass media and peer pressure to be perfected and buffed by early, randy exposure and keep-fit-for-sex exercise. The fit, physical ideal should be maintained into age by “rejuvenating surgery” (aka: plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery), prosthesis, implants, and their accompanying psychological orientations. An attitude and action that trickled down from Hollywood stars, war veterans, and professional sportsmen and women to the American upper class, into the upper middle class, and eventually to the middle class.

178This follows the same trickle-down pattern in the culture as racy automobile design and styling. The common man and woman began with the chunky, clunky, horseless-carriage automobile of the Ford Model T (1908-1927), deliberately down-styled and functional. But meantime out in Hollywood, L.A.-born coachbuilder Harley J. Earl (1893-1969) designed extravagant, custom-made cars for the stars. Via movies and the celebrity journalism of the time, these dream boats got a lot of attention. Then Chevrolet started outselling Ford in the 1920s and 30s partly due to fresh-looking, yearly remodeled, attractive styling. Earl was hired by General Motors in 1927 into their new Art & Color section. This new emphasis on visual appearance was gradually complemented at Ford Motor Company by Edsel Ford’s styling work (1983-1943; which showed in his design of the Ford Model A, the medium-price range of Mercury cars, upper range of Lincolns), aggressively pursued at Chrysler by Virgil M. Exner (1909-1973). A curvaceous body culture eventually became the norm for US automobiles.

179All of this is not vanity, but much of it is. When does pleasure become self-indulgence? When does form take over from substance? Specially the issue of rejuvenating surgery for the human body. The fact that one can rebuild the body in new and marvelous ways in the last few decades denies the natural ravages of mortality on an unprecedented scale.

180Once upon a time this body work wasn’t necessary. In 1969 when US actress Sally Kirkland said: “I considered (and still do) the naked human body the height of beauty, innocence and truth” her reference was young American nudes below the age of 30.97 At the time this physical-spiritual nudity became an artistic gesture, something ecstatic and almost heavenly (e.g., in Dionysus in 69 or Hair) – and subsequently a commercial product celebrated in see-through costumes like the 60s body stocking, mini skirts, and the “diminishing dress”. It was Isadora Duncan redux for the middle class masses. But by the time these bodies hit the age of 55-65, serious professional help was needed to evoke nirvana.

181Enter the body mechanics. As the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. – 75th anniversary 1937-2012 – proudly declared about their rewarding cosmetic labors: it’s a process that:

  • 98 See home page : "American College of Surgeons - Division of Education," @ :

deals with the repair, reconstruction, or replacement of physical defects of form or function involving the skin, musculoskeletal system, craniomaxillofacial structures, hand, extremities, breast and trunk, external genitalia or cosmetic enhancement of these areas of the body.... The plastic surgeon uses cosmetic outcome of reconstructive procedures.98

182Okay, but what is this techno-speak really saying? On one level isn’t it the ongoing value of Sixties body beautiful? On another, it’s the fountain of youth updated as the affordable miracle of modern science. On another it’s socioeconomic salesmanship. On yet another the change, replacement, or rebuilding of the body’s inner and outer parts is as practical as a good CV, to join Linked-In, to smile. Anti-aging is advanced maintenance of the networks of inner and outer health and well-being.

  • 99 Although the first, full artificial hip replacement was 1962 ; first knee replacelment 1968 in the (...)

183This is a just-in-time strategy made possible by medical science just possible for this generation. The knee and hip surgery currently done first came of age for most consumers only in the 1980s.99 The human life span, per se, has not increased in the last 2,000 years – but what has increased is the quantity of old people who live longer and better in an advanced industrial civilization such as the United States. When the miraculous powers of modern medicine are available to them.

  • 100 Table 110, page 350, "Health, United States, 2011, with special feature on socioeconomic status and (...)
  • 101 Reuters, "Cosmetic surgery helps make 60s new middle age ?" , November, November 28, 2006 ; @ :"htt (...)

184The search for a perfected physical condition and good looks is by no means historically, exclusively American. Yet latest statistics show that the greatest number of plastic surgery interventions are done in the USA. In 1975, out of a total of 340,280 active doctors in the United States, 1,706 practiced plastic surgery; and by 2009, from a total of 792,805 active doctors, 6,110 were plastic surgeons.100 For plastic surgery alone, by 2007 there was a total of 10.2 million “rejuvenation procedures” in the United States. In 1980 3.0% of all US doctors of medicine were plastic surgeons, by 2008 it was 7.2%. The numbers have been growing ever since. The global research group AC Nielsen recently “surveyed people in 42 countries and found 60 percent of Americans, the world’s biggest consumers of cosmetic surgery and anti-aging skincare, believe their sixties are the new middle age.”101

185But what’s valued? The very word ”anti-aging“ wasn’t prominent in the West until it was first used in urban, US journalism in the late 1940s and early 1950s as physicians and sociologists began to note that by 1975 the estimated number of persons in the USA who would be over the age of 65 would be double the 1940 figure. Accordingly, a sound system of US social security had to be reinforced – which President L. B. Johnson would finally do with the USA’s 1965 Social Security Act that authorized Medicare for all Americans over sixty-five.

  • 102 The Fountain of Youth (dir. Orson Wells, with Dan Tobin, Joi Lansing, prod. Desilu Productions, 195 (...)

186On the one hand, anti-aging emphasized how to keep the aged in good health. But the full spectrum of medicine reveals how, on the other hand, it also appealed to vanity. Conspicuous news reports of the late 1940s and 1950s era in the USA about gerontology and the study of glandular secretion of hormones can be linked to the high-profile visibility of celebrities using costly plastic surgery to enhance or preserve their good looks and youth. This point was made concisely in Orson Wells’ sharp-witted, short film of the time: The Fountain of Youth (1958).102

187By the time plastic surgery became middle class ordinary and affordable in developed countries by the late 20th century and early 21st, value issues have taken a position of greater importance for everyone – be they American or Korean, Indian or Iranian. The Iranian physician S. R. Mousavi argued in 2005 that a closer look at aesthetic surgery now poses:

  • 103 S. R. Mousavi, "The Ethics of Qersthetic Surgery", in : Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery (...)

an acute ethical dilemma....the doctor who offers aesthetic interventions faces many serious ethical problems, which have to do with the identity of the surgeon as a healer. Aesthetic surgery makes profit from the ideology of a society that serves only vanity, youthfulness and personal success, and one which is losing sight of the real values.103

188What does plastic surgery which treats problems of age actually heal? Ugliness? Vanity? Obesity? Self-esteem? Death?

  • 104 The Economist, "Daily chart : Plastic makes perfect", issue of Jan 30th 2013 ; online @ : "http://w (...)

189On the current global repair list of who has the most plastic surgery done, by population percentage, the USA is now only 4th on the list. By this ”measure, more primping and preening goes on in South Korea, Greece and Italy“. Detailed body work differs by nation. The most commonly performed surgical procedure in the USA and Brazil is breast augmentation. A Brazilian specialty is buttock implants and vaginal rejuvenation (”cosmetic enhancement of...external genitalia“). China, Japan and South Korea have the biggest demand for rhinoplasty (nose jobs). More than half of all non-invasive procedures in the world are treatments to level out wrinkles and remove unwanted hair. While the world’s most popular plastic surgery operation overall is lipoplasty (fat removal).104

190Here plastic surgery might actually heal. The illness is obesity. Which increases the likelihood of diabetes, strokes and heart diseases, and a variety of cancers. Global obesity rates in the world doubled between 1980 and 2008. In developing countries since the early 1990s malnourishment is down and overweight is up. One in three people are overweight in the world. Two countries weigh in at top place: the USA and the UAE. About two-thirds of America’s population are overweight –- belly to belly equal with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Might plastic surgery – for a time vanity’s handmaiden, luxury physician for anti-aging – now use its know how against an illness almost as common as appendicitis or tonsils?105

191Like the automobile, like the TV, like Sony’s Walkman or Apple’s iPod – it is in the United States that bone, joint, organ repair and cosmetic surgery first became a mass culture phenomenon. It’s here where aesthetic body enhancement by means of surgical operations first crossed racial, ethnic, religious lines and has increasingly become middle-class affordable. Visible in the popular culture, for example, in the dramatic ”color blind“ success of US TV’s Grey’s Anatomy series (2005-present), which couldn’t function without the ideal hopes of universal humanity and medical care.

192Rejuvenation surgery is not a Cinderella fix. It’s about upkeep. How everyone has the right to look good.

193“I realize that if we are going to live to be a hundred, it’s about maintenance,” according to Ms. Nely Wechsler– who recently created “thenewyoutv.com” web site – “It’s maintenance of your health, your wellness, and your beauty. You’re like a car. You take care of your car. You take care of your house. Why wouldn’t you take care of yourself? The truth of the matter is – is that if we’re going to live to be a hundred we’re going to work until we’re eighty-five, ninety-years old. We’re going to be around a long time. We’re having kids later. You have to maintain. It’s about maintenance.”106 What could be more pragmatic? Vanity becomes the body’s humble need.

7. Role Models for Aging, Anti-aging, Illness, Death

194It is only appropriate since uniform good looks have become so highly demanded and mass mediated that the seventh piece in our puzzle about age-defying Boomer Americans today is about how they seek self-assured role models for aging, anti-aging, illness and death.

195Like this essay’s second point about progress and positive thinking, alternative, virtually bipolar role models have flourished for the Boomers consumption and consideration. To keep this point brief, a rich list shall suffice. But the full reward of nuances is present in their individual – often genuinely fascinating – autobiographies; notably: Grace Slick, Somebody to Love ? A Rock and Roll Memoir (1998) ; Patti Smith, Just Kids (New York : 2010) ; Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume I (2004) ; Keith Richards, Life (2010) ; Richard Hell, I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp (2013).

  • 107 Ashley Lutz, "14 Stars Who Have Aged Really Well," November 10, 2012, Business Insider, @ : "http:/ (...)

196While the telecommunications of cyber space hype heightens the power, intimacy and omnipresence of these mass mediated, popular culture role model “celebrities like Gwen Stefani, Brad Pitt and Halle Berry” about whom it is “difficult to fathom how good they’ve managed to look in their 40’s and 50’s...and whose faces remain ageless through marriages, kids and divorces” – as the US money and technology news website Business Insider declared in 2012.107

197Plus there’s the exuding-grace, transition-into-death role models who exposed previously closeted illness and aging issues. Such as, for example, US presidential spouse Betty Ford (1918-2011) with breast cancer and finally her “death by natural causes”; or with George Harrison (1943-2001) and his beatific death by cancer – specially as stressed in Harrison’s family-approved documentary: Scorsese’s Living in the Material World (HBO, 2011). And among the Beatles it had to be Harrison who embodied a spirit of ageless grace – and not John Lennon, since Lennon never escaped the anguished 60s, never became more than the pure and puerile child of his formative era.

198And there’s no want of aging American celebrity female role models who appear to defy death, illness and decay; who embody a wrinkle-free senescence. Conspicuous here among American models, career women and actresses has been the lifelong beauty Carmen Dell’Orefice (b.1931) – still strutting the cat walks or grabbing the cover of Madame Magazine in her 80s. Or Lauren Huton (b. 1943), who recently posed nude for Big magazine in her “ageless” 60s because – as Hutton declared on “Good Morning America” – she wanted Boomer females “not to be ashamed of who they are when they’re in bed.”108 Or Helen Gurley Brown (1922-2012) author of the 1960s best seller Sex and the Single Girl (1962), long-time editor of Cosmopolitan magazine (1965-1997) and all Cosmo international editions (1997-present); who “may be 81 years old, as a Telegraph interviewer wrote of the ebullient octogenarian in 2003. “But her wardrobe is that of a...21 year old...[and] needless to say she looks quite extraordinary.”109

8. Aging and Patrimony

199There’s the body of the individual and the body of the land. Both need care not to be destroyed or age in an unwanted way. The love of beauty – vanity? – extends beyond the body personal to the body of the public lands and monuments of nature and mankind.

  • 110 Mitchell, Joni. “Big Yellow Taxi,” Ladies of the Canyon album, Warner Brothers, 1971.
  • 111 Freeman Tilden., Interpreting Our Heritage. (Chapel Hill, North Carolina : 1977, 3rd edn.).

200This leads to piece number eight of our anti-aging puzzle – an optimistic turn in the issues of aging and patrimony, wherein the US tradition of rejecting the old takes the ironic twist of rejecting old American traditions of laying waste to the wilderness. Or, as Joni Mitchel (b. 1943 ) wrote in her tremendously successful environmentalist song “Big Yellow Taxi”: “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.”110 This sense of patrimony means conserving the nation’s national heritage with the USA’s national and state parks – and specially by the love of personal examination in sight, hearing, smell, taste and the “tactile urge”.111 All of which were hallmarks of 60s’ politics of experience.

201Though respectively founded in 1892, 1961, 1969, 1971, the Sierra Club, World Wild Life Fund For Nature (WWF), Earth Day, and Greenpeace – experienced massive US membership jolts in the 1960s and 1990s. While the yearly, visitor total for America’s national and state parks visits rose from 365, 000,000 in 1964 and have just about tripled to 1, 005, 700, 000 at the present time. While donor sources (not unlike PBS) confirm the rejuvenation of common, cross-generational interests in all things green.

  • 112 Newsweek Magazine, October 25, 1971 ; No #2 : Job Training for the Unemployed" – while only #8 : "I (...)

202The marked contemporary interest among young people for environmentalism, ecology, sustainability and conservation (specially in that decisive one-third of the middle class US population that now has B.A. degrees) begins with the Boomers. Newsweek magazine ran a landmark October 25, 1971, issue entitled: “How Will Youth Vote?” after the new 26th Amendment was made law. Newsweek’s survey found that ameliorating “Air, Water, Pollution” issues by spending more tax money on these problems was the number one, 78%, majority concern in a Boomers across-the-board poll.112

  • 113 Understanding that America & Americans are usually only and truly a nation in times of national cri (...)
  • 114 Bob Dylan, "Forever Young", 1985, on Planet Waves album.

203Since K. L. Bates’ “America the Beautiful” became the unofficial national anthem in the late 19th century, it’s ever been the land, the parks, the seasides, forests and deserts that have been the life blood of American renewal, of calls to patriotism113, of the “Forever Young” USA wherein “”May your hands always be busy / May your feet always be swift / May you have a strong foundation / When the winds of changes shift / ...May you always do for others / And let others do for you /...May you stay forever young.”114

204Conservation means the commonwealth, the preservation, protection, and planned use of America’s strong natural foundations of water, land, forests and minerals. It doesn’t jingle out into supermarket music like a pop tune. It’s not a “spoil a good thing by changing it” value. Oddly, things “Green” depend greatly on technology while promising to transcend the machinery that would maintain environmentalism, ecology and sustainability.

205The US conservation movement is the world’s first and oldest. It has many sources and reasons, from the material (preserve mineral wealth, hunting, species preservation, tourism industry), to the spiritual (transcendentalism, US vacation sentimentality). It’s been an affirmative, trans-generational, cross-generational phenomenon. Embodied at its US historical and institutional source in the boyish adults Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) and the Scottish-American naturalist John Muir (1838-1914). Maintained at present in the US conservation movements major associations – such as with the Sierra Club’s Madelyn Pyeatt Award for youth or the Sierra Club’s Special Service Awards given for strong and consistent commitment to conservation over an extended period of time.115

9. Technology and Culture: Medical Technology

206The key expression of technology and culture, the ninth point on our anti-aging list, is medical technology, already referred to in part. As defined by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services medical technology is:

  • 116 U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Health, United States, 2009 In Brief – Medical Tech (...)

the application of science to develop solutions to health problems or issues, such as the prevention or delay of onset of disease, or the promotion and monitoring of good health. Examples of medical technology include medical and surgical procedures (angioplasty, joint replacements, organ transplants), diagnostic tests (laboratory tests, biopsies, imaging), drugs (biologic agents, pharmaceuticals, vaccines), medical devices (implantable defibrillators, stents, prosthetics), and new support systems (electronic medical records and telemedicine).116

207The field is immense, its rate of innovation since WWII, and specially since the introduction of digital technology, has been astronomical. Upward on a Himalayan Mountains scale.

208At issue here in the United States is the disparity between positive innovation and progress which improves quality and length of life, overall health care and well being versus the negative rising costs of medical technologies, their fair and appropriate use. Who gets it, who doesn’t.

209Concurrently, remember how most ADEA cases against employers for wrongful termination suits come from a privileged sector of white middle class males. Just as there’s a pattern of improvement with regard to dealing with the problem of aging, there’s also a pattern of disparity regarding who is dealt what, how and when.

  • 117 Following statistics in this paragraph about socioeconomic status and health in the USA from "Healt (...)
  • 118 NB in addition : average US male 2014 life span : 76.2 ; black male : 71.8. ; non-Hispanic white : (...)

210The decisive factor in the United States which effects this difference is peoples’ socioeconomic status and subsequent resources.117 In the twenty years between 1990 and 2010, the percentage of Americans living in poverty increased – a percentage that fluctuated between 7 and 23 percent of the adult population, depending on the ethnic group (the most extreme being Hispanic @ 22% and Black @ 23%). Likewise US life expectancy differs by race. As of 2014 an Hispanic male had an estimated life span of 78.7, Hispanic female 83.8; a white male: 76.5, a white female: 81.3.118

211The poorer the adults the less insurance they have, the worse their medical care and health, the less medical technology they can use, and the more prone they are to illness and more likely to die at a younger age. Longevity and aging in comfortable circumstances isn’t a given. To paraphrase the earlier quote by Marlon Brando, America can be very good to you – but that isn’t a gift. Will the slow but inevitable insertion of Obamacare into US culture and society eventually change these conditions?

  • 119 See table page 3 : "Health, United States, 2011 : At a Glance" in : "Health, United States 2011 – W (...)

212Defining American “elders” as 65 years of age and older, between 2000 and 2009 their average health has improved. Average life expectancy went from 76.8 to 78.5; from 2000 to 2008 heart disease rates per 100,000 declined from 257.6 to 186.5, strokes from 60.9 to 40.7; and even in a nation prone to increasing obesity and its attendant maladies, some obesity decreased and diabetes deaths went down from 25.0 to 21.8. What is striking is that health care utilization and hospital visits also decreased for the elderly in this period – reflected by the fact that health care insurance and access to care for the 65 years and older population increased.119 Still the amount of health care technologists increased at an annual average percentage change of 3 percent – in fields ranging from radiologic technologists to nuclear medical technologists.

213Science and medical technology from the 20th to the 21st centuries have profoundly advanced the “predictability of life and of life span in the West (and the United States specially)” In the USA an anti-aging present and future is aggressively pursued on the American principle that “because we believe what we know what we know the future is foreseeable” – and the triumph of anti-aging biotechnology is becoming “an embedded ‘fact’ of life.” Thus insistently declares the Boomer “LiveScience”.120

214The USA’s Advanced Medical Technology Association claims that from 1980 to 2000, rapid technological progress in America created the results of “a 16% decline in annual mortality, a 25% decline in disability rates, a 56% reduction in hospital days—and a 3.2 year increase in life expectancy.”121

215This advance is attested to by various sources – the American Academy of Antiaging Medicine, with its more than 26,000 practioners by 2011, the work of the US government’s National Institute on Aging – which “leads a broad scientific effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. “122And by other US anti-aging centers such as Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and practioners such as Dr. Robert Lanza.

216Anti-aging medicine technically means the on-going, serious research to understand the role and harness the helpful use of antioxidants, free radicals, calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, resveratrol and rapamycin , hormone therapy, quick, effective DNA sequencing, and dsehydroepiandrosterone (aka: DHEA, made from cholesterol by the adrenal glands) – to name a few. Anti-aging therapeutics is now a medical fact pursued and monitored by no less than the US President’s Council on Bioethics. It is generously funded by various foundations. It enchants the general public who see that an anti-aging “future is beginning to take a shadowy but very real shape today.”123

  • 124 cryonics : process of freezing and storing the body of a diseased, recently deceased person to prev (...)

217This all sounds a bit like Cocoon, the fantasy of science fiction. At the least a bunch of dangerous half-truths. But much of it promises to be a near reality. (It’s not cryonics or cyrogenics.124) Which shall be confusing as it becomes reality. With the US cohort-in-old-age Baby Boomers now the first generation to forcefully profit from this research.

218Though, as so often with science, it’s a promised advance without a clear sense of consequences. Anti-aging healing arts are driven by moral and materialistic purposes, since aging is both individually painful and expensive for the persons concerned and their community. Yet the work in anti-aging medicine has generally avoided the moral obligations involved.

  • 125 Anti-Aging Medicine : Predictions, Moral Obligations, and Biomedical Intervention," March 12, 2006, (...)

219What happens to the quality of life when people keep living longer? Specially when most discussions among medical experts in the field predict “120-150 years as the likely life span average that could be achieved within the next fifty years.”125 How will the “new old” pay for themselves? Not be infantilized, abandoned or abused? How can they fruitfully keep using their social and cognitive awareness? Be respected for what they do and not for what they were? In the United States could gerontophobia be overcome in the same way that race relations have advanced in the United States since the 1960s? And, finally, do such promised advances in medical technology make death itself any less inevitable or does this progress give life’s sense of the infinite greater value?

God-style US Medicine

220Finally, if science doesn’t work there is always religion. Faith healing. In Christian mythology after all there is not a kingdom of the living and another kingdom of the dead. There is only the one kingdom of God and all are within it. Which many in America use as a viable tool. Christ healed the sick and raised the dead. As may his handmaidens, loyal servants and saints evoke his force. It’s a factual reality for believers.

  • 126 "Superstition is the poetry of life" : Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maximen und Reflexionen (1833) ; (...)

221Is faith healing the sublime “poetry of life” or the “religion of feeble minds”? One thing’s for sure, like self-help and positive thinking – it genuinely boosts some people, be it true, false, or placebo.126

222Hence one’s religion and religious faith is an intervening tool. Catholicism is specially applicable here. Though some Protestant sects in the United States – such as the Church of Christ Scientist, Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the meetings of the Pentecostalism and Charismatic movements – are particularly good too.

223This is not to be disparaged as a form of knowledge that people apply in practice in the United States. About one quarter of Americans are Catholic. There are about 77.7 million registered Catholics in the USA. Catholic-Americans comprise the world’s fourth largest community of this Christian religion. While America’s two poorest and largest minority groups, Hispanic and Black – which suffer most from lack of standard medical technology and health care – together make up about 35% of all US Catholics.127 This population of believers has two forms of applied, anti-aging resources: medical technology – expensive and impersonal; or faith healing – much less expensive and infintely more personal.

224At latest count there are over a hundred all-American saints, “blesseds”, and venerables who may intervene on behalf of those who pray to them to improve one’s health or well-being. Junípero Serra (1713-1784), Eduardo Farre (1897-1936), Eusebio Kino (1645-1710) are outstanding indigenous figures in the US Hispanic-American tradition. These saints, “blesseds”, and venerables are not medical doctors and their actions are not medical technology. But in supermarkets across America shelves of colorful votive candles multiply. Saints offer a structure of healing and longing – with a science of theology – which applies to illness and health for those who believe.

225You can name your illness or body part, your wish for well-being, and find an appropriate patron. There is St. Bendict for kidney disease, Dymphna for mental illness, St. Roch for invalids or knee ailments, and for dying people and death one is encouraged to invoke Abel, John of God, Joseph, Catherine of Alexandria, James the Lesser the Apostle, Margaret (or Marina) of Antioch, Michael the Archangel, Benedict, Nicholas of Tolentino, Barbara.128

10. Change Adjustment

226With anti-aging medicine intensely progressing and Boomers living longer – how well can they accommodate this simultaneous opportunity and need? How has – and shall – change adjustment be achieved? Thus our penultimate issue number ten of anti-aging.

  • 129 Stewart, A. J., & Torges, C. M. (2006). “Social, historical, and developmental influences on the ps (...)

227One answer lies in a recent systematic sociological analysis. Done over more than the past thirty years and covering a generous, noninstitutionalized, English-speaking cross section of Americans, it has come to a refreshing conclusion. This study of US “change in sociopolitical attitudes among people at different stages of the life course” found that in America the positive ability to “change is as common among older adults as younger adults.” Like the international, English-language label on a beanie or a baseball hat , when it comes to a positive attitude toward change “one size fits all”. As opposed to the popular mythology of common, grumpy old men and women stereotypes, aging in America does not lead to reactionary conservatism, to hardened opinions and beliefs that are as sclerotic as the old bones might have become.129

  • 130 Theodore Roszak, The Making of an Elder Culture : Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audac (...)

228It’s politically debatable what this means for the intracohort aging of Boomers in particular. One argument by the old Boomer scholar Theodore Roszak (1933-2011) was that they will retain a positive, progressive interest in American society’s well-being. Anti-aging is staying awake to current needs, living in the present moment, moving into the future, not dwelling on the past.130

229Change adjustment also has its leaders. Thus the importance of associations such as AARP and of role models for aging, anti-aging, illness and death. The AARP in particular proudly parades a teacher’s robes. Delights in its pedagogical role by stressing US culture heroes that do – as when it quotes Bob Dylan saying, in his May 10, 2015, 2015 AARP interview: “If I had to do it all over again, I’d be a schoolteacher — probably teach Roman history or theology.”131

230Anti-aging, as we have seen, is a socio-technological transition. Among contemporary social scientists there are generally agreed to be four change models among leaders and movements: reformist, impatient revolutionaries, grassroots fighters, patient revolutionaries. The question for anti-aging at the present time in the US, is where are they to be found and who embodies them?

231A major element of the future that needs to be considered regarding the anti-aging, aging Boomers, and change adjustment – that ultimately completes their meaning in many ways – is their subsidiary effect. How will they change the world around them that’s come to depend on them for a living, or for inspiration? How will the Boomer’s size, health, wellness or sickness in US civilization effect the rest of society and culture? Will they make the economy depend on them? Turn the rest of US civilization into their caretaker; make America into a janitorial society? (Imagine a nation where 20% of the population has to pay for 24-hour health care – or not.) Will they the grey turn doctors from genuine healers into vanity pimps? In the popular culture what effect will they have on the nostalgia industry?

  • 132 Jaron Lanier, You Are Not A Gadget : A Manifesto (New York : Vintage-Random Hopuse, 2011).

232As late-generation Boomer Jaron Lanier (b. 1960) has argued in You Are Not a Gadget (2011), the Boomer generation have pulled along the rest of America in a dependent – not fresh, innovative – fashion. Most of contemporary society and culture has become a remixing of 1960s ingredients; imitations not innovations. Where’s the new?132

11. Europeans versus Americans

233Last but not least – and number eleven in our list which seeks to take measure of the meaning of aging for this group – is the cross-cultural aspect of this age rejection and age adaption issue: Europeans versus North Americans.

234People are conditioned by what their institutions allow, by what is discouraged or encouraged within a distinct culture area. Although culture area explanations have fallen out of fashion among anthropologists since around mid-20th century (science first developed this concept between the two World Wars), it is still used as a coherent measure of human behavior by the well-funded and productive science of market research to discern consumers’ needs and behaviors.

  • 133 Following sets of statistics and arguments comes from this Nielsen study : online PDF @ : The Globa (...)

235One of the world’s oldest marketing research firms, ACNielsen, founded 1926 in Chicago, has regularly begun to measure how people think and act about aging. One of their latest studies, “The Global Impact of an Aging World” (2011), merges the United States and Canada as one distinct set of interactive characteristics, social relations, and cultural phenomena. While it excludes the United States and Mexico as one set. Nielsen’s results are revealing.133

236When asked “How old is old?” or “What’s your definition of old?” – most Europeans say age 70 or older, while most North Americans say age 80 or older. In response to “When do you plan to retire or when did you retire?” – most Europeans answered with a median age of 64.5; while most North Americans leaned toward the older median of 74.5 or older. In Europe “How will I fund retirement?” is mainly answered by “government”; while in North America it depends upon “Employer/Other”.

237Once retired the biggest difference is that 39% of Europeans look forward to taking care of their grandkids; while only 25% of North Americans do so. When it comes to money Nielsen narrows the survey down to the USA’s spending habits – as American grandparents spend 4.4% more annually compared to all other US households. Finally, older Americans prove to be the most digitally savvy of all the world’s consumers. The USA’s old folk represent 32% of the world’s active internet audience.

238Meaning – I’d argue – that compared to Europeans, the older American is more focused on the self. On whom there is more money and time to spend. It’s also a self who has had to depend upon and create a closer relation with a particular business, thus heightening the existential sense that “you are what you do”. Plus, US families tend to be more geographically dispersed than those in Europe, so it’s harder for grandparents to be around their grandchildren. Families are dislocated, mixed up and blended anew by subsequent remarriages. While those who have individual affluence have heightened independence. And since they have the money, they can spend it on the advanced technologies of anti-aging medicine. They can advance research and practice.

239In contrast, Europeans age sooner. Conditioned by their institutions. They get cut from their work force sooner. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates only 39% of Europeans between the ages of 55 to 65 work. And after the age of 65 work possibilities dramatically decrease. Because of government support, European cultures generally allow an earlier retirement than America. It’s a more predictable, culturally rigid yet more secure structure than America’s.

  • 134 See "average actual retirement age across Europe" charts (2005) @ : "http://www.agediscrimination.i (...)
  • 135 Since 2003 records have been "lost" or "misplaced" & remaining statistics differ ; but the story st (...)

240Finally, aside from England, an implicit trait of many European cultures – a non-dit, taboo fact – is ageism. For three reasons. Healthy, productive older people are culled from the European workforce, with little or no chance for new employment.134 Then they are generally not legally defended by institutional changes which adapt to an older, healthier population (claimed exceptions now being the UK and the Netherlands). Thirdly, the infamous European heat wave of 2003 exposed European neglect. With temperatures hovering at 40° C (104°F) for about a week at one point, of the more than 70,000 who died that scorching summer season – most were older Europeans.135 The reality is too shameful to accept?

IV. The End

241What is missing and where to go from here regarding the current rejection of aging in the US Baby Boomer generation and the US tradition of rejecting the old?

  • 136 Almond, Gabriel A. & Sidney Verba. The Civic Culture : Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Na (...)

242Four suggestions. First that most Americans do not live in an ideological culture, but a political culture. Most Americans’ life is based on a vague, blended set of personal principles, individual needs, and public tolerance. American civilization is not patterned out on an ideological grid. By America’s political culture is specifically meant the internalized “cognitions, feelings, and evaluations of its population”; its civic culture – as originally argued in the seminal Almond and Verba text The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (1963).136

243This is not to deny that an American ideology exists; as attested to by key texts such as the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the laws of the US Constitution. Or as shown by various US groups with their own distinct set of ideologies. But – as 4th of July polls in the United States have proved time and again – the American mainstream is ignorant of the nation’s abstract principles. Thus, for the most part, the question of aging in America is not framed or deeply informed by ideology or ideologues. It’s an attitude, an inheritance. Like positive thinking.

  • 137 A.I. Artificial Intelligence (dir. Steven Spielbierg, wrt. Brian Aldiss & Ian Watson, S. Spielberg, (...)

244Second, For the US theme of longevity this Cultural History essay has fragrantly avoided the nation’s Literature. Which deserves far more attention than I have given it here – beginning with the folklore vernacular tales of the earliest settlers in what is now America, notably with Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth and the subsequent quasi-folklore literature about longevity’s mystery which kicks off with Washington Irving’s ”Rip Van Winkle" (1819). But does American Literature provide the best examples? I suggest for modern times that film is more important. I stressed Cocoon because of its sociological importance. But a deeper, more nuanced, and needle-closer-to-the-bone of US culture and society film on this theme is Stanley Kubrick’s movie – directed by Steven Spielberg in eldritch near-perfection after Kubrick died – A.I. Artificial Intelligence.137

245Third, in our eleven observed points, is there an overall pattern? Is there not a movement and counter movement? That is: look, but do not look – at aging. See, but do not see – decay and death. Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

246Although this is a universal phenomenon, in the USA – as this article has tried to show – this oscillation is of an exceptional quantitative and qualitative difference. It’s a beast of another kind and color. To the extent that the objective permanence of death is denied. As Whitman wrote: “What do you think has become of the young and old men?... of the women and children? / They are alive and well somewhere; / The smallest sprouts show there is really no death, / ... All goes onward and outward. . . .and nothing collapses,/ And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” There’s a mass, transcendent seeking after eternity by this cohort. A spiritual longing enhanced by a material hope that anti-aging medical technology shall advance and trickle down.

  • 138 Statistical Abstract 2011-2012, Table 145

247Fourth, with regard to aging, a new force has come into play which rejects the old patterns of not seeing death and decay by delegating it to the institutions of hospitals, which brings death back home. This is the US development of home-based Hospice care – for which Medicare benefits in 1980 amounted to $ 318,000,000. But by 2009 these same-purpose Medicare benefits amounted to $ 12, 514, 000,000.138 Here be new resources to embrace and rebuff America’s old folklore friend and foe Blind Joe Death.

  • 139 Chrystia Freeland, “Squaring the political circle in the U.S.”, IHT/NYTimes, May 11, 2012, 2.
  • 140 Karl Mannheim, “The Problem of Generations,” in : Karl Mannheim, Essays on the Sociology of Knowled (...)

248However paradoxical, the USA’s contemporary use of the Hospice movement – increasingly effecting Boomers’ parents and Boomers’ themselves – “squares the political circle in the USA”. For it embodies both the US 60s’ “vast expansion of individual rights and liberties” with the 80s’ cuts in a public “social welfare safety net”.139 As Karl Mannheim rightly pointed out, modern generations are agents of social transformation – which contain different units within each generation which react differently to the same transformation process.140

  • 141 Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York : Free Press-Macmillan Publ. Co., Inc., 1973.

249For what is death, after all? Death is “the worm at the core of all our usual springs of delight,” as William James proclaimed. Or as Ernest Becker wrote in his The Denial of Death (1973) – death “is the basic fear that influences all others, a fear from which no one is immune, no matter how disguised it may be.”141

  • 142 Carlyle, Thomas. Heroes, Hero-Worship and The Heroic in History, Lecture 1, “The Hero as Divinity,” (...)
  • 143 Paul Tillich, “An Ontology of Anxiety,” from : The Courage to Be (New Haven : Yale University Press (...)

250This means that the “first duty of a man is still that of subduing Fear. We must get rid of Fear; we cannot act at all till then,” as Thomas Carlye wrote in his heroism studies classic Heroes, Hero-Worship and The Heroic in History.142 But one does not need to be heroic with regard to death in a grand Olympian sense. “Fear, as opposed to anxiety, has a definite object (as most authors agree), which can be faced, analyzed, attacked, endured. One can act upon it, and in acting upon it participate in it— even if in the form of struggle. In this way one can take it into one’s self-affirmation,” as US theologian Paul Tillich insisted.143

251Does one stay forever young or grow up and get ready to die? The American answer from the Baby Boomer generation is not black or white, yes or no. But it is very ambitious. It is a kind of King Kanute gesture. There are many Promised Lands. Life can be remarkably extended by Boomer self-confidence and the on-going search for positive solutions to aging. There’s something good in a variety of ways about The End.

252The author rests his case. The case continues.

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Notes

1 David Boyd Haycock, Mortal Coil: A Short History of Living Longer ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008) 213.

2 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1965) ; @ : "http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/167978-in-speaking-of-this-desire-for-our-own-faroff-country".

3 Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519), Selections from the Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Ed. Irma A. Richter (London : Oxford University Press, 1971) 276.

4 Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1879-1880), Book II, Ch. 4 ; Constance Garnett translation.

5 Shakespeare, "The Passionate Pilgrim" , 1599 ; also attributed to Thomas Deloney (1543-1600)

6 Homer, The Iliad, Book VI, ll. 146-150 ; Richmond Lattimore translation.

7 William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain (New York : New Directions, 2009 ; orig. publ.1933) 109,

stress W.C.W.

8 Howard Chudacoff, How Old Are You ? Age Consciousness in American Culture (Princeton, N. J. : Princeton University Press, 1989) 5 & throughout Ch. 2 ; also as quoted in : Corinne T. Field & Nicholas L. Syrett, Age in America : The Colonial Era to the Present (New York : New York University Press, 2015) 5-6.

9 The late, great Susan Sontag, from her essay "Notes on ’Camp’ ", 1964.

10 William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain (New York : New Directions, 2009 ; orig. publ.1933) 11.

11 Archibald MacLeish, "Sweet Land of Liberty", 1955.

12 Frederick Jackson Turner (1861-1932) ; US Historian & originator of “The Frontier Thesis” in US Civilization (publ.1893) ; for full text & quote see "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" @ : “http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/22994”.

13 The USA is not unique as a "frontier culture" ; one finds frontier to be a dynamic engine of development in nations as diverse as Israel and South Africa, Kenya and Argentina – with an attendant mytholofy of "mission" and "new world".

14 Charles A. Beard, May R. Beard, A Basic History of the United States (Philidelphia, The New Home Library-The Blakiston Co., 1944) 195.

15 Personally witnessed Denver, Colorado, spring 2013.

16 Oscar Wilde, ’Australian Poets’ in Pall Mall Gazette, vol. XLVIII, No. 7409, December, 14th, 1888, PP 2-3 ; subsequently used by Wilde in his play A Woman of No Importance, 1894. Act 1. "LORD ILLINGWORTH. The youth of America is their oldest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years. To hear them talk one would imagine they were in their first childhood. As far as civilisation goes they are in their second."

17 Corinne T. Field & Nicholas L. Syrett, Age in America : The Colonial Era to the Present (New York : New York University Press, 2015) 11-12, 313-314.

18 A. J. Baime, The Arsenal of Democracy : FDR, Detroit, and an Epic Quest to Arm an America at War (Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Co., 2014) 36.

19 Fortune Magazine advertisement, mid-1980s.

20 Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (New York : New Directions, 1987 ; orig. publ. 1934) 25.

21 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide : Leading Across Cultures (Boston : Nicholas Brealey International, 2010) 179-180.

22 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide, ibid.

23 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide, ibid.

24 “Who Said It First ? Journalism is the ‘first rough draft of history.’” by Jack Shafer, Slate (30 August 2010). NB : unless otherwise noted, all online sites accessed Spring 2013.

25 US Census Bureau, "Labor Force Participation Rate of People 65 Years and Older : 2008 American Community Survey" @ : "http://www.census.gov/prod/2009pubs/acsbr08-9.pdf".

26 Source : The Statistical Abstract of the USA – 2011-2012 edn. ; info. base for these statistical paragraphs.

27 Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power (London : Penguin Books, 1987 ; orig. publ. German as Masse und Macht in 1960) ; see spec. pp. 30-33.

28 John Knowles, A Separate Peace (New York : Macmillan-Bantam, 1982 [orig.1960]) 32.

29 Jerome H. Skolnick, Ed., The Politics of Protest (New York : Ballantine Books, 1969) 84 ; the report of the US National [Advisory] Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (NCCPV), formed in 1968, by US President Lyndon B. Johnson & chaired by Milton S. Eisenhower.

30 On August 21, 2012, US National Senior Citizens Day.

31 Richard D. Lewis, When Cultures Collide (Boston : Nicholas Brealey International, 2006, 3rd edn.) Ch. 4, "The Use of Time", 53-62, q. p. 60.

32 James Q. Wilson, "Hard Times, Fewer Crimes", The Wall Street Journal, Saturday Essay, May 28, 2011 ; @ : "http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304066504576345553135009870.html".

33 Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860)

34 W. Andrew Achenbaum, "Delineating Old Age : From Functional Status to Bureaucratic Criteria," 301-319 in : Corinne T. Field & Nicholas L. Syrett, Age in America : The Colonial Era to the Present (New York : New York University Press, 2015) , q. 315-316.

35 Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride : Folklore of Industrial Man (Boston : Beacon Press, 1951).

36 Voltaire : "L’illusion est le premier plaisir", in his poem "La Pucelle d’Orléans" (The Maid of Orleans).

37 Hans J. Morgenthau, Kenneth W. Thompson, Politics Among Nations : The Struggle for Power and Peace (New York : Knopf-Random House, 1985, 6th edn.) 147.

38 Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One : An Anglo-American Tragedy (London : Chapman & Hall-Penguin : 1948) 64.

39 “A poem, on the rising glory of America” (1771) by Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Philip Freneau; online @: “http://www.poetryatlas.com/poetry/poem/648/a-poem,-on-the-rising-glory

-of-america- %5Bextract %5D.html” .

40 Arthur Barlow, R. R .Howison, “Naming of Virginia : First Description of the Indians, the Lost Colony,” 1584, in Rossiter Johnson, Charles Horne, & John Rudd Eds., The Great Events by Famous Historians, vol. 1-20 (NP : The National Alumni, 1905), @ : “http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19893/19893.txt”.

41 Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Conclusion”, in : Carl Bode, Ed., The Portable Thoreau (New York, The Viking Press, 1969) 572.

42 Marlon Brando, IMDB, attributed, @ : “http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000008/bio”.

43 In Frost’s January, 1961, Washington, D.C., inaugural poem “The Gift Outright”.

44 $ 750 billion is a 2010 estimate. The DOD budget has progressively been scaled down since the end of the Iraq War and the Afghanistan draw down. By 2013 the DOD budget was estimated at $ 672.9 billion ; 17.7 % of the total budget – compared to 24.7 % of the total Federal budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (which includes the age-related Medicare & Medicaid). See : "National Defense Business and Technology Magazine" @ "http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2010/December/

and the government-calibrated "2013 United States federal budget" charts @ "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_United_States_federal_budget".

45 Lillian B. Rubin, 60 on Up : The Truth about Aging in America (Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press, 2007) 2.

46 A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Ed. J.P.Mayer, trans. George Lawrence

(New York : Doubleday & Co., Inc.-Anchor, 1969) Part 1, Ch. 17, “On Some Sources of Poetic Inspiration in Democracies,” 485. On line : A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Chapter XVII, OF SOME SOURCES OF POETRY AMONG DEMOCRATIC NATIONS ; @ : “http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/DETOC/ch1_17.htm”.

47 Roberta Price, Across the Great Divide : a Photo Chronicle of the Counterculture (Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, 2010), italics mine.

48 Judith Graham, " ‘Elderly’ No More - The New Old Age - Caring and Coping," New York Times, April 19, 2012 ; online @ : "http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/elderly-no-more/".

49 Douglas T. Miller, Marion Nowak, The Fifties : The Way We Really Were (New York : Doubleday & Co. Inc., 1977) Ch. 6 the “Happy Home Corporation and Baby Factory”.

50 Or, as Barbara Ehrenreich sees it, seeks to blindside the audience with shallow optimism ; Barbara Ehrenreich, Bright Sided (New York : Metropolitan Books-Henry Holt & Co., 2009).

51 Modern Maturity –January-February1999, 65.

52 “Going Blind” by Carolyn See, in: Modern Maturity - September-October 1997,Vol. 40, Number 5, 48.

53 @ : “http://www.aarp.org/magazine/”.

54 Evelyn Waugh, The Loved One : An Anglo-American Tragedy (London : Penguin Books, 1951 ; first publ.1948) 63-64.

55 Judith Graham, “ ‘Elderly” No More,” New York Times, April 19, 2012.

56 “Couéism,” in : Frank W. Hoffman, William G. Bailey, Mind & Society Fads (Binghamton, New York : Harrington Park Press-The Haworth Press, Inc., 1992) 55-57. And : Emile Coué, How to Practice Suggestion and Autosuggestion (New York : American Library Service, 1923). Emile Coué, My Method : Including American Impressions (Garden City, New York : Doubleday, 1923).

57 Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged By Culture (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004), both quotes : 7.

58 Todd Gitlin, The Sixties : Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York : Bantam Books, 3rd revised edn. 1993) 438.

59 Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged By Culture (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004), both quotes : 7.

60 Walter D. Glanze, The Mosby Medical Encyclopedia (New York : NAL-Plume Book, 1985) 274.

61 See @ : “http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19930531,00.html” for magazine cover & article contents.

62 See @ : “http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1132623/combined”. Titled upon US proverb : “You don’t know jack shit.”

63 From the film, with text approved by Kevorkian himself, written in collaboration with Adam Mazer. See @ : Ibid..

64 Article Nine, US Constitution : “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Kevorkian’s part in You don’t Know Jack was cherry picked & played by Al Pacino (b ; 1940), who’s part of that in between pre-Boomer group like Bob Dylan (b.1941) and Joan Baez (b. 1941) who have loomed so large among the Boomers. NB : opposed to Kevorkian, see the work of Rita Marker, Deadly Compassion (1993).

65 Edward C. Stewart, Milton J. Bennett, American Cultural Patterns : A Cross-cultural Perspective (Yarmouth, Maine : Intercultural Press, Inc., 2nd revised edn., 1991) 106.

66 Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, ibid., 209.

67 Ezra Bowen, Ed., 1960-1970, vol. VII in Time-Life Books "This Fabulous Century" series (New York : Time-Life Books, 1970) 118-127.

68 The youth vote balance was maintained through the Reagan years, when Carter polled only 44 % of the 18-29 age group against Reagan’s close 43 %. See the contemporary J. D. Lees, R. A. Maidment & M. Tappin, American Politics Today (Manchester : Manchester University Press, 1982) 136.

69 Jane Eisner, Taking Back the Vote : Getting American Youth Involved in Our Democracy (Boston : Beacon Press, 2004) 14.

70 "How Obama Won Re-election", New York Times, November 07, 2012 ;@ :"http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/11/07/us/politics/obamas-diverse-base-of-support.html".

71 Editors of Time Magazine, What is Occupy ? : Inside the Global Movement (New York : Time, December 6, 2011). All subsequent What is Occupy ? quotes & references from this book-booklet.

72 Stewart and Bennet, op. cit.

73 Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind (New York : Harper Books) 97.

74 See : John Dean, “Heroes in a World of Global Connection : U.S. and European Heroism Compared” in : Heroes in a Global World, The Hampton Press Communication Series, USA, 2008.

75 Bruce Fallick and Jonathan Pingle, "The Effect of Population Aging on Aggregate Labor Supply in the United States", 2006, @ : [PDF] The Effect of Population Aging on Aggregate Labor - The Federal ... "www.bos.frb.org/economic/conf/conf52/conf52b.pdf".

76 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 ; "Protecting older workers : The failure of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967" , 13.

77 "Aggregate Income And Labor Force Participation of the Aged" by Juanita M. Kreps, 1962, @ [PDF]

"scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi ?article =2910...lcp".

78 In this same time period more women have been working longer and harder ; thus among female workers the USA comes in at only 2nd place, exceeded by Sweden. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Social Trends, 2007, 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 2007, "Labour Force Participation – An International Comparison" @ : "http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/0CBA37179F1B71BACA25732C00207901?opendocument#PARTICIPATION%20RATES%20BY%20AGE".

79 "More older Americans staying in the job market" by Don Lee - Tribune Washington Bureau - September 16, 2012 - 2 :00 AM, @ : "CapeCodonline.com", "http://m.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120916/BIZ/209160316/-1/WAP&template=wapart".

80 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 ; "Protecting older workers : The failure of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967".

Technical changes were made on the 1986 ADEA by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to strengthen the cause of

plaintiffs ; see modified text of the 1991 Civil Rights Act @ : "http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/cra91.html".

81 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 ; "Protecting older workers : The failure of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967".

Technical changes were made on the 1986 ADEA by the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to strengthen the cause of

plaintiffs ; see modified text of the 1991 Civil Rights Act @ : "http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/cra91.html".

82 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 ; "Protecting older workers : The failure of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967", 22.

83 J. Z. Rothenberg, D. S. Gardner, Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, March 2011, Volume XXXVIII, Number 1 ; "Protecting older workers : The failure of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967", 17.

84 Adam Cohen, "After 40 Years, Age Discrimination Still Gets Second-Class Treatment", New York Times, November 6, 2009 ; online @ : "http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/opinion/07sat4.html".

85 IMDB @ " http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088933/business". While, the furor of ADEA’s 1986 renewal gone, Cocoon, the Return grossed significantly less with $ 18,924,919.

86 David Saperstein, Cocoon : A Novel (New York : Jove-Berkley Publ. Group, 1985), 186.

87 David Saperstein, Cocoon : A Novel (New York : Jove-Berkley Publ. Group, 1985), 200.

88 Janet Maslin, "Screen : ’Cocoon’ Opens" (1985), New York Times, published June 21, 1985 ; online @ : "http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9400E7D81039F932A15755C0A963948260"

89 Susan Goodman, “She Lost It At The Movies : Premier critic Pauline Kael takes a tough look at life onscreen…and off,” in : Modern Maturity, March-April, 1998, 49-52, 80.

90 C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (1965), op cit.

91 James Gilbert, Redeeming Culture : American Religion in an Age of Science (Chicago : University of Chicago press, 1998 ).

92 See Eisenhower’s UN speech of December 8, 1953, @ : "http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/ research/online_documents/atoms_for_peace/Binder13.pdf" ; Disney film, see @ : "http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0151857/combined", and book : The Walt Disney Story of Our Friend the Atom (New York : Dell, 1956), illus. Richard Powers.

93 Movie Review : Bigger Than Life (1956), August 3, 1956 – “ Screen : Tax of Tedium ; ’Bigger Than Life’ Has Debut at Victoria” by Bosley Crowther, Published : August 3, 1956, ; @ : “http://movies.nytimes.com/ movie/review ?res =9A0CE6D9103FE03BBC4B53DFBE66838D649EDE”.

94 Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1951), Ch. 41.

95 Chrysta Freeland, " Paychecks Tell a Tale of Unfairness" ", International Herald Tribune/New York Times, March 22, 2013, p. 2 ; orig. publ. March 21, NYT. ; online @ : "http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/us/22iht-letter22.html?_r=0".

96 Margaret Morganroth Gullette, Aged By Culture (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004), both quotes : 7.

97 Sally Kirkland quotation, as cited from the New York Times in 1969 ; see @ : "http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1rs99/BetweenTwoAges/resources/content/90.swf"

98 See home page : "American College of Surgeons - Division of Education," @ :

"http://www.facs.org/residencysearch/specialties/plastic.html".

99 Although the first, full artificial hip replacement was 1962 ; first knee replacelment 1968 in the UK, 1970 in the USA. See : Michelle M. Lusardi, Millee Jorge, Caroline C. Nielsen, Orthotics and Prosthetics in Rehabilitation (New York : Saunders-Elsevier, 2012, 3rd edn.).

100 Table 110, page 350, "Health, United States, 2011, with special feature on socioeconomic status and health", @ : "http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus11.pdf#125".

101 Reuters, "Cosmetic surgery helps make 60s new middle age ?" , November, November 28, 2006 ; @ :"http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/lifestyle/20011/28/content_744697.htm".

102 The Fountain of Youth (dir. Orson Wells, with Dan Tobin, Joi Lansing, prod. Desilu Productions, 1958). See also : Waldemar Kaempffert, "Science in Review. Staving Off Old Age," The New York Times, December 16, 1951, @"http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F70611FA3F551A7B93C4A81789D95F458585F9".

103 S. R. Mousavi, "The Ethics of Qersthetic Surgery", in : Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery in 2005, @ : "http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890136/".

104 The Economist, "Daily chart : Plastic makes perfect", issue of Jan 30th 2013 ; online @ : "http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2013/01/daily-chart-22".

105 " Obesity : Fat chance." Dec 15th 2012, print edition, @ : "http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21568389-state-can-do-some-things-encourage-people-eat-less-not-lot-fat-chance" ; & "Special report : Obesity. The big picture. The world is getting wider. What can be done about it ?" ," by Charlotte Howard. Dec 15th 2012, print edition, @ : "http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21568065-world-getting-wider-says-charlotte-howard-what-can-be-done-about-it-big".

106 In video interview @ : "http://thenewyoutv.com/".

107 Ashley Lutz, "14 Stars Who Have Aged Really Well," November 10, 2012, Business Insider, @ : "http://www.businessinsider.com/stars-who-havent-aged-2012-11?IR=T".

108 “ABC Good Morning America”, “Lauren Hutton Poses Nude at 61” Oct. 21, 2005, @ : “http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/BeautySecrets/Story?id=1236581&page=1”.

109 Helena de Bertodano, "Sex and the Octogeneraian," June 26, 2003 ; online @ : "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3597396/Sex-and-the-Octogenarian.html"

110 Mitchell, Joni. “Big Yellow Taxi,” Ladies of the Canyon album, Warner Brothers, 1971.

111 Freeman Tilden., Interpreting Our Heritage. (Chapel Hill, North Carolina : 1977, 3rd edn.).

112 Newsweek Magazine, October 25, 1971 ; No #2 : Job Training for the Unemployed" – while only #8 : "Increased Social Security" (which Boomers later actually needed big time). USA’s 26th Amendment lowering voting age to 18 was submitted for ratification on March 23, 1971, and completed on July 1, 1971.

113 Understanding that America & Americans are usually only and truly a nation in times of national crisis. The rest of the time America is – politically though not by custom – a very un-united United States.

114 Bob Dylan, "Forever Young", 1985, on Planet Waves album.

115 See : Sierra Club’s home page @ : "http://sierraclub.org/".

116 U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Health, United States, 2009 In Brief – Medical Technology", @ : "http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus09_InBrief_MedicalTech.pdf", 3.

117 Following statistics in this paragraph about socioeconomic status and health in the USA from "Health, United States 2011 – With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health", @ : "http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus11.pdf#125".

118 NB in addition : average US male 2014 life span : 76.2 ; black male : 71.8. ; non-Hispanic white : 76.4 ; non-Hispanic black : 71.4. Female : 81.0 ; black : 78. ; non-Hispanic white : 81.1 ; non-Hispanic black : 77.7. Historically US longevity is more dramatic : (apx., male & female) : 1800 : 25 yrs old ; 1900 : 42-48 ; 1950 : 58 ; 1993 : 75 ; 2000 : 78. Source US Government’s National Vital Staistics Report

119 See table page 3 : "Health, United States, 2011 : At a Glance" in : "Health, United States 2011 – With Special Feature on Socioeconomic Status and Health", @ : "http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus11.pdf#125".; pages 563-564 Older Population : contents.

120 @ "http://www.livescience.com/"

121 "Industry Fact", AdvaMed home page, @ : "http://advamed.org/page/7/our-industry".

122 See : National Institute of Aging site @ : "http://www.nia.nih.gov/"

123 "Nanotech Base", Lehigh University, @ : "http://nanodb.sites.lehigh.edu/article.php?id=107".

124 cryonics : process of freezing and storing the body of a diseased, recently deceased person to prevent tissue decomposition so that at some future time the person might be brought back to life upon development of new medical cures ; cyrogenics : production of low temperatures or the study of low-temperature phenomena. Definitions : American Heritage Dictionary (2009 edn.).

125 Anti-Aging Medicine : Predictions, Moral Obligations, and Biomedical Intervention," March 12, 2006, @ : "http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/424718/antiaging_medicine_predictions_moral_obligations_and_biomedical_intervention/".

126 "Superstition is the poetry of life" : Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maximen und Reflexionen (1833) ; "Super- stition is the religion of feeble minds" : Edmund Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).

127 See : "http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0076.pdf " ; "Hispanics and the Bible" at the Barna Group site @ :"http://hispanics.barna.org/hispanics-and-the-bible/".

128 See the "Catholic Online Saints Index" @ : "http://www.catholic.org/saints/stindex.php"

"Patron Saints for Chronic and Incurable Illnesses" @ : "http://www.2heartsnetwork.org/patronsfortheill.htm";

& "List of American saints and beatified people"@ : "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_American_saints_and_beatified_people

129 Stewart, A. J., & Torges, C. M. (2006). “Social, historical, and developmental influences on the psychology of the baby boom at midlife”. In S. K. Whitbourne, & S. L. Willis Eds.), The baby boomers grow up : Contemporary perspectives in midlife (pp. 23 – 43). Mahwah, NJ : Lawrence Erlbaum.

130 Theodore Roszak, The Making of an Elder Culture : Reflections on the Future of America’s Most Audacious Generation (Vancouver, Canada : New Society Publishers, 2009).

131 AARP THE MAGAZINE EXCLUSIVE – "Bob Dylan : The Uncut Interview" @ : "http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/style-trends/info-2015/bob-dylan-aarp-the-magazine-full- interview.html" ;

q. @ : " http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/music/info-2015/bob-dylan-photos.html#slide13"

132 Jaron Lanier, You Are Not A Gadget : A Manifesto (New York : Vintage-Random Hopuse, 2011).

133 Following sets of statistics and arguments comes from this Nielsen study : online PDF @ : The Global Impact of an Aging World - at.nielsen.com/site/documents/GlobalReportonAging.pdf.

134 See "average actual retirement age across Europe" charts (2005) @ : "http://www.agediscrimination.info/statistics/Pages/Statistics.aspx".

135 Since 2003 records have been "lost" or "misplaced" & remaining statistics differ ; but the story still remains a human scandal. See, e.g., Janet Larsen, "Setting the Reciord Straight," Earth Policy Institute, July 28, 2006, @ : "http://www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2006/update56"

136 Almond, Gabriel A. & Sidney Verba. The Civic Culture : Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. (Boston : Little, Brown and Co., 1965 ; orig publ. 1963).

137 A.I. Artificial Intelligence (dir. Steven Spielbierg, wrt. Brian Aldiss & Ian Watson, S. Spielberg, with Heley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor, 2001). NB : Stanley Kubrick : concept - uncredited, but with final "Thanks" to Christiane Kubrick, Stanley Kubrick.

138 Statistical Abstract 2011-2012, Table 145

139 Chrystia Freeland, “Squaring the political circle in the U.S.”, IHT/NYTimes, May 11, 2012, 2.

“Cuts the net” since, increasingly, public hospitals in the USA will not take care of the old & dying – but families themselves will do the job via Hospice self-help techniques. Both quotes in this pâragraph.

140 Karl Mannheim, “The Problem of Generations,” in : Karl Mannheim, Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge (New York : Oxford University Press, 1952, Ed. Paul Kecskemeti, from original : “Das Problem der Generation” in Kölner Vierteljahrshefte für Soziologie, 8 (1928) ; spec. Part II, A & B.

141 Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York : Free Press-Macmillan Publ. Co., Inc., 1973.

142 Carlyle, Thomas. Heroes, Hero-Worship and The Heroic in History, Lecture 1, “The Hero as Divinity,” 1840. (London : Chapman and Hall, Ld.,1872 [23rd edn. : 1899]), 29.

143 Paul Tillich, “An Ontology of Anxiety,” from : The Courage to Be (New Haven : Yale University Press, 1952), italics mine.

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John Dean, « Rejuvenescence American Style: Longevity, Aging, The US Tradition of Rejecting the Old & the US Baby Boom Generation Now », Transatlantica [En ligne], 1 | 2015, mis en ligne le 05 février 2016, consulté le 24 septembre 2017. URL : http://transatlantica.revues.org/7441

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John Dean

Chercheur au Centre d’Histoire Culturelle des Sociétés Contemporaines, UVSQ 
Project Co-Director, 2015-16 - der Akademie für Lehrerfortbildung und Personalführung in Dillingen, DE
Executive Member of the US American Studies Association International Committee

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Transatlantica – Revue d'études américaines est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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