OK, so we’re leaving you with a few bills to pay.
But as we baby boomers hit retirement, keep in mind you millennials also have thrown us some curveballs. So before we fade away, here’s some advice on how to live better lives.
Oh, you can ignore us if you like. We’re used to it. It’s not true we boomers always get our way, though we had a good run early on — what with the pill, various recreational stimulants and rock music. Now we’re taking Viagra, doing Metamucil and listening to so much “classic” rock you’ve been forced to buy yours from iTunes.
Here, then, based on recent events, are some admissions and suggestions:
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KEEP CHANGING YOUR DIET
The postwar generation did you no favors by supercharging the food supply with high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats and highly processed carbs. Recently, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the average waistline of adult Americans has swollen to 38.8 inches. More than half of us — 54.2 percent to be exact — now “suffer” from what the CDC calls “abdominal obesity.”
BEWARE OF LABOR-SAVING DEVICES
Yeah, we invented the TV remote — or at least the engineers at Zenith did. Like our bad diets, this also had a profound effect on waistlines. Long before the time-shifting magic of the VCR and TiVo, we perfected the art of watching more than one program without leaving the couch.
Only now your generation is whizzing past desktop PCs and smartphones into what’s being called “the Internet of things.” Which is to say, you’re about to get remote control of everything in your lives, from setting your room temperature to driving your car. Beware of this, my children. There’s a reason that all sci-fi creatures from outer space have big heads and hardly any arms or legs.
This comes to mind following President Obama’s announcement that our military is being ordered back into action in Iraq and Syria. I’ve got no sympathy, mind you, for Muslim fanatics out to kill or convert “infidels.” Especially ones who make a big show of beheading journalists and aid workers.
But we came of age during Vietnam, so a lot of us boomers are leery when such outrages are cited as reasons to help bring “freedom and democracy” to societies that have no experience with either. For reference, Wiki the Gulf of Tonkin incident of 1964. Or more recently, the Iraqi-weapons-of-mass-destruction canard of 2003.
Lesson learned? No matter the pretext, bombing and strafing will not clear a path to peace and prosperity, not for societies still mired in tribalism, sectarianism and autocracy. Political pluralism takes time. Next year will be the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. You can look it up.
OCCASIONALLY REMOVE YOUR EARBUDS AND MAKE EYE CONTACT
The most worrisome trait of our millennial offspring is your preoccupation with digital communication devices. So while it’s OK to text your buddies (when not driving) or “friend” your digital contacts, save some cognitive awareness for the people, places and things that surround you. Nod to strangers on the sidewalk. Smell the flowers. Most of all, say something — anything — to your grandparents!
Oh, and one more thing.
MAKE NO PROMISES YOU DON'T INTEND TO KEEP
We boomers promised ourselves generous Social Security retirement checks and Medicare benefits. We promised an even better deal to government employees. Only now, the way the global economy is evolving, we don’t have the revenue streams capable of financing those benefits.
So this last memo to millennials: Find the political will, like we didn’t, to raise revenues, limit benefits and rationalize medical spending.
Meantime, get to work and keep paying into our trust funds.
John McCarron teaches, consults and writes on urban affairs.
©2014 Chicago Tribune