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Friday, December 3, 2021

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Reviewed: The Making of an Elder Culture by Theodore Roszak

Will baby boomers harness the energy for social change that defined them in their youth?


Forty years after he wrote The Making of a Counter Culture, Theodore Roszak revisits the ‘make love not war’ generation. They are the baby boomers and brought us Woodstock and the Summer of Love. They were the harbingers of ‘youth culture’ which dominated social and cultural thinking ever since. 

The world yearned for new life and energy to drive its recovery from the ravages of WWII. What gradually evolved, and eventually became firmly established, has been a cult of youth. Every dimension of advertising and commercial direction focused on what young people want. Society has eschewed all apparent signs of normal aging favouring this youth cult and the holy grail of longevity. In this book, Roszak contends that our obsession with youth might be reaching its sell-by date now that the boomers are coming into their golden years. 

Roszak looks to see what has happened to the boomer folks. He finds that they have not given up on the attitudes and behaviours that defined them in the 1960s. Only now, they have more influence and more money. And they still have the drive to change what doesn’t suit them in how the world works. Instead of being shunted off the scene and sidelined as their silent generation predecessors would have been, they now enjoy higher regard and more respect for their wisdom and experience.  

Why you should read it.

Theodore Roszak was theauthor of fifteen books, including the 1969 classic The Making of a Counter Culture. He was professor emeritus of history at California State University.

It is a good experience to understand how someone with the authority of Roszak can take a new look at an older generation and come to a positive conclusion. Being older is not so bad! He describes at some length how the dilemmas of aging play out in areas like financial planning, managing loving relationships, sex in the later years, and how to revise the opinions of a society that cultivated and admired the classic ‘alpha male’. 

The boomer constituency has grown to retirement age and is now staying healthy longer than their predecessors. They have more energy and enterprise than any generation before them. Released from their career-building and military-industrial competitiveness, they can be themselves and assert their rights. Many are retiring younger and planning to have second careers or new entrepreneurial ventures. They travel more and look for creative ways to invest themselves.

And he also suggests ways to cultivate alternative views of established gender roles. Mentoring is suggested as a constructive way for older men to see to the effective development of younger men. The surge in awareness of longevity is one of the key themes he addresses. We are becoming older than the generations before us. The reality of longevity in such critical areas as health and finance are important discussions he records in this engaging account.

Reading this book is importantly intended to change your image and identity as an older person. Rather than submitting to older age in a defeatist way, Roszak welcomes you into a challenging and rewarding next life stage.

Well worth the read.

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Amazon rating at time of publishing 4.7
Goodreads rating at time of publishing 3.73
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Johann is the founding partner of Reset Retirement where we focus on assisting people with planning for the non-financial aspects of their lives after full-time work. He had a long career in executive search and leadership as the founding partner and chairman of Heidrick & Struggles in South Africa where he was the head of the company’s board practice.