Were Boomers “With” or “Without”?

As we all age, it’s interesting to note how other generations perceive us and our earlier years. For example, boomers had grandparents who were born in the late 1800s, or early 1900s. They grew up in a time when horses and wagons were commonplace, yet many of them lived to see a man walk on the moon. Now the same types of historical references are being said about the Boomer Generation.

For Mister Boomer, it’s hard to imagine that there are now TWO generations born that never knew a world without the internet. Mister B has had some nostalgic fun through the years reminding readers of the Way We Were compared to the Way It Is. Boomers, as we know, did not have internet, cell phones, instant messaging, social media or even personal computers in their heyday. What we did have was our lives in the timeline of history. So, were we a generation “without”? How can you miss something you may have never even imagined?

The Boomer Generation is often termed the TV generation, because we were the first to grow up with television. It’s probably just as hard for boomers to imagine a world without television as it is now for kids to wonder about a world without cell phones. They may find the whole notion to be post-industrial primitive, but it was everyday life for us. Wall phones and phone booths were our conveniences, modern marvels our grandparents did not have.

Commonplace objects are not immune to the march of progress, either. In Mister Boomer’s household, paper towels weren’t used until the late 1960s. Paper towels have been available to consumers since the 1920s, but their use wasn’t a part of Mister B’s childhood. Rags made from old clothing or bed linens were stored in a container in the basement for any and all purposes, from mopping floors to cleaning paint brushes; dusting furniture to polishing the car. In the kitchen, cloth towels were used for everyday spills and the like that today, people think nothing of tearing off a paper towel to handle (the quicker picker-upper!). Cloths and rags were washed and reused. There was not a dryer in Mister Boomer’s house until the 1960s, either. Outdoor clotheslines did the job.

To ask which is better is not the right question. Each has its place in history. Likewise, it seems prudent that we of the Boomer Generation not malign those younger than us for having modern conveniences and communications that we did not. As Bob Dylan so aptly reminded our parents, Don’t criticize what you can’t understand. (The Times They Are a-Changin’, 1964)

Like our ancestors, boomers adapted quickly to technological changes in their lives. It appears humans are hard-wired to both invent ways of improving their surroundings, and master the tools and resources they create. Boomers will recall when the move to home videotape meant helping a parent set up a VCR machine so it didn’t constantly blink 12:00. Now, boomers have embraced social media, according to some sources, more than any other generation.

Nonetheless, the proverbial shoe is now on the other foot. How can I be sure? In a world that’s constantly changing? … is what the Young Rascals sang to us (How Can I Be Sure, 1967). Ok, the song wasn’t about technology, but romance. Still, the phrase seems appropriate in a time when people on Earth control helicopters flying over the Martian surface, and NFTs are a BFD.

Where does that leave boomers? If the past fifty years is any indicator, the world will be vastly different in the coming decades. Our generation’s history proves we’re adaptive beyond belief. Maybe we’ll adapt enough to learn to ask for help when we need it. Or maybe we’ll even feel comfortable enough to ask for one of those autonomous vehicles to drive us to the CVS to pick up a prescription.

What about you, boomers? Did you buy a hoverboard to make up for your childhood, deprived of even a skateboard? Are you tech savvy or tech-challenged? And does that matter to you at this stage of your life?