A child of the sixties looks at sixty

As baby boomers we’ve all gone through the same thing … or we’re about to: coming to terms with coming of age. That’s what Washington DC freelance writer Mary Ellin Lerner talks about in her story about A Child of the Sixties Looking At Sixty.

When I was a teenager in the late 1960s, I loved to pore over old yearbooks and marvel at the matronly appearance of girls from the 1940s and 1950s. They looked like grannies, with their white blouses, pearls, and sensible coifs. As a budding hippie, I felt outraged that these women were forced to become grownups so early in life. They never had a chance to be young and wild and free.

Mary Ellin Lerner back in her hippie days, the days of youth.

Like many children of the sixties, I believed that I should not trust anyone over 30 — and could not possibly imagine ever being over 30 myself, let alone 50 or 60. Old people were squares. They were on the other side of the Generation Gap … and they looked terrible with their clothes off. As a flower child, I was determined to never age.

All my free-spirited Baby Boomer life, I have avoided and denied my impending senior citizenship by convincing myself that I was young or at least youngish. Now I am undeniably oldish — and beset with a painful identity crisis: how can I be me at 60?

What should I wear? What should I eat? Can I date? Can I apply for jobs? Can I still drive around with my windows down and my music cranked up? Should I cut my hair? Do I need to find senior activities? What are senior activities?

Society offers plenty of age-related guidelines for kids. You have to be four-feet-tall to ride a roller coaster, sixteen to get married, and twenty-one to vote and drink. There are child guidelines for books, movies, and video games. Clothing stores have special sections for children.

But no signs or hints for me as I enter my seventh decade. When I log onto a dating site, there is no fine print stating that dating is not dignified for people over 50. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s don’t have middle-aged and geriatric labels on their clothes.

And there’s definitely no one to give me guidance on whether or not to take advantage of the myriad offerings in plastic surgery and non-invasive skin enhancements to restore my appearance from oldish to youngish.

Looks like I am going to have to figure out how to be 60 on my own — with a little help from my Boomer friends who are thriving in maturity.

Baby Boomers are known for our optimism and courage. We believe that change for the better is always possible, whether it is improving our bodies, our souls, or the society in which we live. Already Boomers appear to be enjoying the healthiest and liveliest retirement in memory. As historic boundary crashers blessed with a generational tendency toward self-confidence, my fellow Children of the Sixties are refusing to put any limits on what they can say and do or look like in their dotage.

I’m with them. To heck with the pearls and coif. I’m gonna dance to the beat of my own weathered drum. I trusted my fellow Boomers in the sixties and I trust them now.


  1. Living in the ’60’s’ was amazing! A life changing experience that I will always treasure and never forget. And we had social media… listening to records, playing outdoors, talking to each other..worrying (and demonstrating) about real issues.
    Ms. Lerner.. stay cool! (but I think you are already doing that.

    1. The 60’s rock!! Went to so many concerts during that time frame, saw the Beatles in Toronto, my ticket cost $4.50!! Still have the ticket stub! Being in my 60’s rock too, can now afford to travel and sleep in a hotel, times have changed for the better with sweet memories to reflect upon!!

  2. Indeed, among so many other blessings, we were given the gift of longevity and if we keep our health, life after 60 (or 70) can be very rewarding.

    Most of us don’t realize how great it is to be here and now. We live better than kings did 100 years back.

    From Vienna where I am attending the Ring cycle again… =BG2

  3. As one nearer seventy than sixty now, and still feeling independent and rebellious, I do not even try to follow others’ conceptions of how I should act, appear or conduct myself. I don’t know how to “act my age” — I’ve never been this old before! And, that “age is just a number” thing is true, and I’ve never been good at math and numbers anyway. Rock on! 🙂

  4. Welcome to the club Mary! I think you will find, like most of us, that hitting 60 does change our perceptions, but only we get to decide if that is good or not. I’m convinced now at 61 that aging is getting better and better. Really! I think the future for those of us who continue to grow and evolve is wonderful. I realize that some people have a hard time of it…but I’ve also seen the majority who are thriving and filled with zest for life. I too am writing about my experiences on my own blog and I think the more of us who share our positive experiences of aging with others, the better! ~Kathy

  5. We do carry the 60s within us. We do believe all of those things you say, or at least I do. I like to think that we baby boomers are paving the way for new understanding and models of aging. It feels good to carry on with it.

  6. now that I have reached the age of 65 I can look back and say we lived in the right place at the right time, except for the 3 years spent in Canada avoiding the draft.filmore east was my favorite venue

  7. I’m so much freer now at 61+ than I was at 16+.
    50 hit and Boom!, this boomer started a whole new path to a new happier life. 60 showed up, freaked me out for this past year + but I’m getting my new groove on now. And yes, as mentioned in a comment above, I love rolling my windows down and listening to rock n roll as I cruise. ( nobody else near me on the road tho! Haha!!)

  8. Interesting views and comments on something I’ve been thinking about recently. At 63 and 3/4s I’m aware that we are incredibly lucky to have been born at such a time and to live through what we have lived through. I’m also appreciating after the recent terrorist attrocities here in UK how lucky I have been to have lived through relatively peaceful times without the threat of war which earlier generations suffered. Terrorism and the threat of it is making me appreciate just how (with some brief exceptions) I have had the freedom that people fought for in the world wars. Now it feels threatened

  9. I am 68, retired, and free to be whatever I want to be. I discovered a new talent, drawing. The 60,s, then and now, have been memorable!

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