Remember the report that boomers now have the highest suicide rate in America? Well, according to a psychiatrist writing recently in Psychology Today, this may just be the beginning. According to Dr. Mark Goulston, he’s seeing an increasing number of middle-aged boomers expressing the idea that they would rather “check out” than become a financial and emotional burden to their children.
But in presenting his case for this boomer death wish theory, Goulston manages to portray us – and our children – in a very bad light. In a nutshell, he says we resent having to care for our parents and we’d rather kill ourselves than have our kids feel the same resentment toward us:
It may be prescient of them that knowing how impatient they have been with their own parents and that their Millennial kids have no patience whatsoever, the idea that becoming mentally and physically enfeebled and dependent on these children portends an absolutely horrendous quality of life for both them and their children.
Is there a solution so that baby boomers might go “gently into that good night” instead of taxing their patience challenged adult children? Most likely what will happen is that when the middle class Millennials grow up and are in the position of having to take care of their elderly baby boomer parents, they will find a way (as their baby boomer parents have) to help pay for their care and delegate their caring to third world caretakers who still retain God’s gift of patience towards those in their care.
So, let’s see…we’re resentful, insensitive, devoid of compassion, exploitive, impatient – and our children are even worse.
Forgive us, Dr. Goulston, if we don’t share your grim outlook for our future. Granted, none of us wants to be a burden to our children; however, that certainly isn’t a frame of mind unique to baby boomers.
We also don’t put much credence in boomer declarations of using suicide to avoid being elderly and infirmed. Remember Pete Townshend wrote the lyric, “Hope I die before I get old” more than 40 years ago, and he’s still around. The point is, lots of folks say things like, “Before I become a burden to my kids, I’m gonna kill myself.’ But then they find they have a totally different perspective when they actually cross the threshold into old age.
Let’s point out that boomers – particularly bohemian boomers – have been redefining what it means to be middle-aged, and we’ll likely do the same for the concept of old age. We’re staying physically active and engaged in work and society for much longer than previous generations.
Now that could mean we’ll be in better shape physically and mentally well into our 80s, or maybe we’ll just be more likely to drop dead on a ski slope or mountain bike trail. But either way, we’re less likely to be a burden to our kids, and we didn’t have to pull the trigger ourselves to achieve it.
That may sound like some pretty cockeyed optimism, but we’ll take our viewpoint over Dr. Goulston’s any day of the week.