Preview of Your Coming Attractions

When I retired after 40 years of writing columns for the San Jose Mercury News, I figured I'd said about all I could say. Wrong. I've realized that at age 76, I'm about 10 years older than the oldest baby boomers, who are now turning 66. My very average body has had a lot of experiences in those 10 years. I've learned a lot that could be helpful to people just starting on that same path -- what to do, what to avoid, what to keep an eye on.. Consider me your canary-in-the-coalmine for the boomer generation. Tune in regularly for the heads-up advice.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Don't Delay

     What made the folks dubbed by Tom Brokaw as “the Greatest Generation” so great? Well, they did win World War II, which isn’t shabby. But some experts theorize that they accomplished that – and as much as they did overall -- because they practiced deferred gratification. They were willing to put off getting what they wanted for themselves to make it easier for those who followed after them to get what that generation needed. Sacrifice now, enjoy later.
     But I’m not suggesting that you do the same thing.
     No, I’m not saying you should be like some of the subsequent generations who sought mainly instant gratification: “I want it now. I want what I want when I want it. Save for the future? That’s only for old people.” Way to self-centered.
     But you are older now, and there are things that you want. I think you should go after them. Not all of them, mind you – this is an “everything in moderation” suggestion – but certainly, go after some of them. You’re not getting any younger, and that’s the problem.
     Travel, for instance. If there’s a trip that you’ve been wanting to take, you probably should take it. While you still can. My wife and I just got back from a great tour of New Orleans. Doing it right required considerable walking. We had to climb or descend occasional flights of stairs to explore some of the city’s great old buildings. We had to have the stamina to get up early and party late, at least for a few days. We did it all. We had a ball. But there were some people on our tour who had put off going for too long. One woman needed to use a walker to get around, meaning that stairs and narrow passageways were impassable. Others had hip or knee problems, or tended to fade as the day got longer. Oh, sure, they had a good time. Just not as good as we did.
     So don’t delay all your gratification. Spend some of your kids’ college fund if need be – they’ll get by; it builds character – but get yourself out there. Do some of the things on your bucket list before you kick it.
     You may even want to emulate the dowager whose will, read at the end of a long and fruitful life, said simply of her estate: “Being of sound mind, I spent it.”


  1. If a generation refers to an age group, then the people in Germany, Italy and Japan who lost World War II are in the same generation as the Americans, British and other Allies who won. But I wouldn't call the Axis powers the greatest generation.

  2. Nor would I. Brokaw was talking about only Americans, thank goodness.