Did you know that there was a time when there weren’t any Teenagers? The term is one that was coined and came into popular use in the 1940’s. Up until then, older children might be called youths, but by the time they were in their early to mid teen years, many of them were finished with school and had entered the work force. They were adults. This would have been due to the fact that life expectancy at that time was about 64 years, having increased from an average life expectancy of 51 years in 1900. A shorter life span meant a shorter amount of time was spent being a youth.
My Grandparents were certainly never teenagers. My Grandfather and his brother were in the trenches of France in World War I when they were 16 and 18 years of age. My parent’s generation were more likely to stay in school for a longer period of time, but many were in the workforce either part time or full time before they had exited their teen years.
By the next generation, teens were fully entrenched in society, and governments responded by confusing an already confused period of time in a young person’s life. They set an upper limit, an Age of Majority, when they deemed an individual should be given “all the legal rights and responsibilities that are generally available to an adult of sound mind”. That age varies from place to place and can range from 16 to 21 years.
But within that time frame, there are also numerous Ages of License, which govern everything from operating motor vehicles, leaving school, consuming alcohol, voting in an election, renting a car, possessing a firearm, giving sexual consent, and getting married. (What have I missed here?)
To put this confusion into perspective, when I was between the ages of 20 and 21, married and with one baby, I still couldn’t vote in a Canadian federal election, hadn’t reached the full legal age of majority and could not legally drink in my province.
I am now at the other end of the road, just about to become a senior-ager. It is just as confusing a time as the teen years. No one can agree on what age it starts. Governments, the workplace, and the marketplace are as inconsistent as ever in conferring the coveted entitlements, such as retirement, discounts, benefits and pensions.
Did I say Entitlements? That seems to be a contentious word with many of the younger generation, who fear that the Baby Boomers are going to bankrupt society. The boomers argue that they have paid into these ‘entitlements’ for about 45 years or so, and certainly have an expectation that they will reap something from what they have sown.
If a younger society isn’t willing or able to support the aging Boomers, then what? The Boomers, who pioneered the concept of rising expectations, will be just as quick to force everyone into lowering their expectations. In practical terms, that might mean every working age family has a resident Boomer living in a suite over the garage all summer, and most of Arizona and Florida consists of Canadian Snowbirds living in trailers all winter…
So, what are you going to do about an aging Boomer in your family?