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Boomer column: Technology continues to amaze

The news that a wealthy space travel entrepreneur hopes to send a man and woman on a 501-day trip in space toward Mars sparked many conversations last week. I asked several boomers if they thought they’d live to see some startling occurrence before they passed on. Yup.

Several said they half expected to witness a cataclysmic event, such as an asteroid strike or a nuclear missile aimed at the United States. Others said they thought space travel would become as common as airplane travel is today.

I asked my mom and her friend Margaret, both 92, what caught them by surprise in their long lives. Landing on the moon was a biggie, and all the technological advances in communication, specifically the Internet.

To put the moon landing in perspective for these 92-year-olds, Margaret remembers her mail being delivered by a postman who used a horse to cart his mail satchels. And this was not in a rural area, this was a north Spokane neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s.

FRESH FROM THE U.S. CENSUS: In anticipation of Older Americans Month coming in May, the U.S. Census dispatched some interesting stats recently, especially interesting for those staring down age 65.

• 41.4 million – the number of people 65 and older in 2011.

• 92.0 million – the projected number of people 65 and older in 2060. Of this number, 18.2 million will be 85 and older.

• 2.4 million – the projected number of baby boomers in 2060; the youngest boomers will be 96 in 2060.

• 24.3 percent – percentage of population 65 and older who have earned a bachelor’s degree and/or advanced degrees.

• 26 percent – percentage of people 65 and older who are widowed.

• 17.6 percent – percentage of Florida’s population 65 and older. Florida has the most seniors in the country.

• 45.5 percent – percentage of 65 and older population in Sumter County, Fla., the highest percentage of any county in the United States.

WHAT’S UP, DOC? Nearly half of the nation’s 830,000 physicians are older than 50. The United States is now short about 16,000 primary caregivers. In 10 years, it’s predicted that the U.S. will be short 90,000 doctors to meet the needs of an aging population. Source: AARP Bulletin, March 2013.

CRABBY ALERT: Since childhood, I have noticed the crabby moods of people the week after we changed to – or from – daylight saving time, as we did March 10 this year. In 1980, at another newspaper, I proposed a story on this time-change crabbiness. My editors barked: “What crabbiness?”

Now if you Google “daylight saving time and mood changes” dozens of stories pop up. And many of those stories quote academic articles examining the effects of the twice-yearly time changes – sleep disruption, depression and overeating.

According to the Journal of Circadian Rhythms, a “disruptive effect was seen for five days.”

So exhale. We are now officially out of DST Crabby Week.

SPEAKING OF CRABBY: When I am in check-out lines at the store, or ordering coffee at a coffee bar, I often initiate a conversation with the person at the cash register, who is most times a younger person. I sometimes ask: “Has it been busy today?” I sometimes get back a snotty: “I have no idea. My shift just started.”

The answer always stops the conversation. I wish they’d say: “Just got here, but it feels OK so far!” Or some other nice nonsense. Boomers in their younger-year jobs were taught to schmooze with customers, a skill perhaps no longer taught to employees in the younger generation.

An unfair generalization? I have no idea.

MATURE MANIFESTO: Ken Dychtwald, gerontologist, psychologist and author, believes that baby boomers have the power to do some course corrections so they don’t bankrupt society – financially or spiritually – as they age. His course corrections, published last week on Huffington Post, should spark some good discussions.

For instance, he thinks the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare benefits should be 70, and he calls for the end of retirement conclaves – “senior playpens” – in favor of intergenerational housing.

“We need to rekindle our youthful idealism and marry it with our extensive talents to help make sure that the aging of our generation won’t inadvertently destroy the future for our children and their children,” he wrote.

THIS WEEK, A SAMPLING: Amputee Support Group, Tuesday, 11 a.m., St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, 711 S. Cowley St., Spokane, (509) 473-6681.

Women Who Wine, Thursday, 5:30 p.m., Pend Oreille Winery, 220 Cedar St., Sandpoint, (208) 265-8545.

AARP Drivers Safety Class, Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Hillyard Senior Center, 4001 N. Cook, Spokane. Registration required, (509) 482-0803.

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