2008.04.09 The last game for boomers

Written by David Green.


An article I read last week prompted a column about toys for children. This week I saw something about toys for adults.

Michael Kinsley had an essay published in the New Yorker about what he calls “the last boomer game.” Kinsley, a Detroit native, is a well-known political commentator. He’s served as a moderator on the TV shows “Firing Line” and “Crossfire,” he helped found the on-line journal Slate and he’s currently a columnist for Time magazine.

He also suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and at age 57, he describes himself as an advanced scout into old age, taking glimpses into the inevitable future for his baby boomer generation.

About every four hours Kinsley takes a medication that rushes him through a life span of about 60 years. At first, he witnesses a sunny disposition and feels like he’s 20 years old, ready to go out and jog for a couple of miles.

A couple of hours later, it starts to wear off and eventually he’s back in middle age. Another 30 minutes and he’s feeling “old, stiff, tired and gloomy.” He takes another Sinemet and the cycle begins again.

He was about 50 years old when he went public with his disease and he remembers it as instantly pushing him to 60. At that age, he said, people stop being surprised if you look old or drop dead.

At 60, some people don’t look a day over 40 while others appear eligible for a rest home. There’s your true age and then there’s the age you appear. It depends on how you look, how much hair you have, how fast you walk, how fast you think, etc. Some 71-year-olds hobble with a cane; another runs for President.

The age 63 has a special meaning to the typical American, Kinsley writes, because your group begin disappearing then.

Assume there are a hundred people close to your age that might be invited to your funeral. This is a crude way of looking at the situation, he says, but it gets across an important point.

On the average, half of those people will already be dead when it’s your turn to go. One of them will have died, on average, when your group reaches 16 years old. At 40, your life expectancy is half-way gone.

When you reach age 63, you should expect to lose one member of your group every year, then the pace accelerates.

Kinsley’s article is called “Mine Is Longer than Yours.” It refers to what was mentioned earlier—the last boomer game, the person who lives the longest.

Those who are winning tend to have no reluctance in bragging about it, Kinsley notes, as if reaching 90 might have come from hard work or prayer. Maybe they were just lucky not to be part of the accident they passed on the highway. Maybe it will be all over on the next shopping trip they take.

The longevity game never ends until the last breath is drawn and it trumps all the other games, including the Baby Boomer means of happiness—material possessions. The big house, the small cell phone, the expensive cars, the winter vacations to the south, the best of modern electronics—all of those things are the games of the boomers, Kinsley says.

But is there anything among your most coveted possessions that you wouldn’t trade in for a few more months of life?

Kinsley recalls the popular bumper sticker from the 1980s—“He who dies with the most toys wins”—and sees it as a perfect encapsulation of a generation marked by shallowness, greed, excessive competitiveness and love of possessions.

He also notes that it’s wrong because those things mean nothing if you’re dead. The winner is actually the one who dies last, the one who can say “mine is longer than yours.”

Seeking longevity is a very selfish motive, Kinsley says, and he urges you, by all means, to seek it. Don’t expect applause for your combination of good genes, right living and luck. Don’t look so proud when you walk out of the swimming pool at age 90, but do play the game until the end.

It’s a little ironic at the end, Kinsley notes, because he who dies with the fewest friends wins.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016