Sixties radicals stay radical in their sixties: Aging boomers continue to provoke moral controversy and social change

(NC)-Baby boomers – the same demographic force that challenged the social and political norms of the ’60s and ’70s – are sparking new controversies as they age. Born between 1946 and 1965, baby boomers are set to begin turning 65 in 2011. Their mass retirement and subsequent decline into old age will cause radical changes, especially in the areas of work and health, says Jacques Légaré of the Université de Montréal. “Aging boomers look forward to long lives – but only if they’re healthy ones,” says the professor emeritus of population studies. “Euthanasia will become the moral and legal issue of the next twenty years that abortion was in the ’60s and ’70s.” And euthanasia is gaining acceptance, he says, despite considerable opposition. “Baby boomers are not going to accept suffering for its own sake, on the basis, for example, of religious convictions,” adds Légaré, whose research on population aging is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). “They will see to it that society allows them to end their days when and how they want to.” Nevertheless, aging boomers will still have to exercise some responsibility toward the younr generations, says Légaré, because their children and grandchildren will be too few in number to carry the entire burden of their parents’ and grandparents’ healthcare costs. “Governments will have to create special financial reserves to pay for the needs of the elderly in the years to come,” he predicts. “But the baby boomers themselves should be contributing to these reserves long before they retire.” For this reason, Canadian workplaces will still depend on those same aging boomers over the next two decades. “The ‘Freedom 55’ message familiar from television advertisements hides the truth,” says Légaré. “It is socially and above all financially unacceptable for the baby boomers to stop working at age 55.” In addition, businesses and unions will have to demonstrate flexibility in managing the workforce by, for example, offering variable work hours and by adapting tasks to each worker’s physical capacity, he says. And this flexibility and adaptability will also be essential in retirement and nursing homes. Better educated and better informed about their rights than previous generations, the boomers are not docile lambs who will simply accept what they’re offered. Remember, these are the same people who launched the protest movements of the 60s and 70s. For more information about SSHRC-supported research, visit the Council’s website ( – News Canada