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I just turned 61-years-old, and for the most part I don't feel it. I have arthritis in my knees, and some minor aches and pains that tell me I'm getting older as well. At 61-years-old, I have also hit the invisible age wall that tells all employers that I'm too old to hire. People can try to tell me that it doesn't exist, but it does. I'm a military veteran with 20 years management experience, as well as customer service experience. I have a Bachelor's degree and I'm almost done with my Master's. Yet, the only job I have been able to get is a part-time job at minimum wage at Sam's Club Café. I have applied for every job where my experience matches the company's hiring requirements, but all I have received is the standard "thank you for applying; if your experience matches the skill set that fits the position, we will contact you for the next step in the hiring process." I'm still waiting.
Of course not hearing from anyone and only working part-time concerns me when trying to pay bills. In another year, I can apply for social security, which will help considerably, but I want to work and earn my money. I do not want to be given my money, especially when I know I am quite capable of working for it.
There's also an underlying fear that I may have to ask my sons for help if I cannot get gainful employment. I do not want to be a burden to my family. That's it really boiled down to the simplest form. I don't mind getting older, because that is a natural part of life. I'm afraid of getting old. Too old to work, too old to take care of myself, and especially too old that I cannot be independent.
According to CNN as of the last year for the birth of baby boomers of 1964, there were 78.8 million baby boomers of which I fall into. This generation includes children born between 1946 and 1964. As of 2016, the US population was a little over 323 million people. That means baby boomers make up about 25% of the total population.
That's a huge chunk of experience and knowledge that can be passed down to the next generation. Instead, society tries to pretend the baby boomers don't exist or that we're useless when we reach a certain age. It is as if our generation is invisible. Health benefits are cut, nursing home costs are rising, and no one will hire us. How, exactly, do people expect us to survive with no income? Social Security isn't enough to pay my bills once I am old enough to apply for those benefits, and if I can make it on my part-time salary long enough to even apply for those benefits. Now I did luck out on health benefits. As a Navy Veteran whose income is below the national standard, I do qualify for health benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA).
Well-meaning friends and family tell me I should apply for food stamps. I did try, but apparently, my part-time job pays me too much to qualify. Yeah, you read correctly. I make between $900 and $1200 a month depending on how many hours I can get. It averages out to $1100 a month which puts me over the threshold for qualifying for food stamps. I just love it. I hear about all these programs that supposedly help seniors? Yet, the income threshold is set so low, that I never qualify, because I make too much money.
I try not to think of these issues when another employment opportunity door slams in my face. I try, instead, to think of all those seniors that are still going strong and are successful. I think to myself that if they can do it, then so can I. I just can't give up.
I wonder sometimes if the reason society tries to ignore us is because they see in us their own mortality when they look at us. "There, but for the grace of God, go" type of mentality. Do they hope that we will go away and die in silence?
My spirit flags sometimes thinking about these things or when something reminds me that I am no longer young or I worry about making ends meet. I feel a shiver of fear when I receive another, "Thank you for applying, but we have decided to hire another person." I don't want to grow old. I don't want to be a burden on my family or society, so I think about people who are older than me and still going strong. They are successful. People like John McCain who is a Senator of the United States and he is 81-years-old.
Senator John McCain
Or I think of Betty White who is still acting and full spirit and she is 96-years-old!
These two people serve as my beacon when I get depressed thinking of my mortality. They are both vibrant and full of life. A third person who absolutely amazes me and I greatly admire is Ernestine Sheppard, the world's fittest grandmother at 80-years-old.
When society tries to tell me that I am old, I remember these three people and others that are older and still going strong. My hero, author Stephen King, is 70-years-old. Aging doesn't have to be an obituary to youth. It can be proof that age is truly only a number. One is only as old as one feels.
Now if my prospective employers would interview me in person, they too can see that my 61 years is just that; a number. That I too am still filled with a lot of life and nowhere close to being old, and I will survive with or without their help.