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Senior stereotypes need to change

Count me in.

With the boomers who are starting to hit the so-called "retirement age" but are determined to keep living like nothing's changed.

Because a birthday is just a number.

You know (who could miss the story) that the first boomer hit 65 New Year's Day and for the next 19 years, 7,000 to 10,000 people will celebrate that birthday every day.

That's about 76 million people. Twenty-five percent of the population. Most of them refusing to be counted "out."

Ah, but counting everyone who is 65-plus as being old and useless is pretty much an American pastime.

Politicians and pundits already are having a field day. "Can Medicare handle this group?" asks The Week magazine. "Have they saved enough to retire?" "Are they prepared for the challenges of aging?" And my favorite, "Can the rest of us survive the boomer retirement?"

The theory is that because the boomers won't retire, this is a "threat to business innovation, whose lifeblood depends on pushing out old ideas to make room for new ones."

Well, count me out on that one, big time.

There's no way reaching a specific birthday can make you any more or less wise. On the contrary, I agree with AARP that living longer gives you more opportunities.

One aspect touted by the AARP Bulletin and by Civic Ventures, a nonprofit riding the aging-social impact crest, is that reaching the so-called "retirement age" often opens a doorway to a new career with social impact -- either paid or unpaid.

I launched WomanSage, the nonprofit for women 45-plus, when I hit 65. I consider it a social activist program. The monthly meetings (see womansage.org) give women a chance to network and create support groups critical to their comfortable aging, from hiking clubs to bunco to investment clubs. Then there are the philanthropies -- such as Re-Invent Yourself! Or Transition Makeover -- which offer women inspiration as well as critical coaching as they struggle to stay employed during difficult economic times.

AARP's Bulletin talks about the "aging folk" who find time for a new life outlook. People such as Bill Kalahurka of Kansas City, Mo., who became a voice-over actor and reads books to nursing home residents and newspapers aloud for the blind.

Senior Corps, a program of the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, recently lowered its age from 60 to 55 to draw more boomers as senior companions who help older adults with shopping visits and medical appointments; as foster grandparents who mentor youth and as volunteers in other programs. You can reach them at seniorcorps.gov.

Even before the first boomer reached 65, local, state and federal agencies and programs were reaching out to the seniors. Common sense says older adults will have more experience to augment volunteer programs.

Yes, I am weary of advertisements -- and assumptions -- about the 65-plus population.

Yes, I need to exercise more and be cautious about my investments.

Yes, I expect to get my Social Security check every month and also expect Medicare to continue.

No, I'm not asking for a "free ride" because I'm 65. I pay taxes.

No, I am not able to Twitter, Skype or do any other computer program without a tutorial.

And, no, I am not going to "learn something new" from an ad in the AARP Bulletin for bettersex.com because I'm not excited by videos titled "The Art of Oral Loving." Which does not mean I believe sexual urges diminish at 65.

In fact I don't think anything changes because you celebrate 65 years.

Of course we are declining. Life is a curve. We all know that.

But we're getting more options and opportunities than our parents did -- in terms of service, medical options, years lived and bettersex.com.

Nobody's going to count me out because of a birthday.

WomanSage has made "Count Me In" our motto. How about you?

e-mail: jghaascox.net

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