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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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September 29, 2004

Tender mercies

Ouch, that must have hurt. Or so one would surmise from the angry, wounded responses to my Sept. 24 column about the dour prospects of baby boomers volunteering in retirement.

The prognosis was offered by Harvard School of Public Health and the MetLife Foundation in a pesky reported titled, "Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement." One nettling quote indicted a generation with a loftier view of itself: "By every measure of engagement one can think of, (boomers) do less: They vote less, read newspapers less, are less apt to join churches or civic organizations."

The learned fear is that boomers who were not inclined to step forward in their most active years, would not do so in retirement, especially as a changing economy reshapes the concept of a neat, clean end to one's working life.

The assessment was embarrassing to a whole generation, and lots of people were deeply upset. Yes, it will go into our permanent record. But the insulted also missed the point. Of course, lots of boomers have worked hard and generously in their communities. Boomers are not all civic slackers, but a preponderance are, according to the study. Those habits and inclinations do not change simply because a person has more spare time.

Yes, yes yes, boomers have made their communities better places to live, but the generation was found wanting. A colleague asked me a question for which I do not have an answer, and the study did not really address: Why? Did the general affluence enjoyed by boomers through their lives take the edge off? Were the times too edgy and confrontational?

You tell me.

The unavoidable truth, however, is boomers did less and the forecast is glum for a glorious, influential brand of civic engagement their numbers might have promised in retirement.

Sorry about those hurt feelings.

Respond to Lance

Read his latest column

 
Posted by Lance Dickie at September 29, 2004 11:57 AM



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