America's post-World War II baby boom generation hits a milestone this year. The oldest boomers, as they are commonly called, are turning sixty. President Bush is joining their ranks on July 6. a generation that once defined being young is now teaching the nation and the world how to age in a whole new way. Lately, the president has been pondering the march of time.
"I'm turning 60. For you youngsters, I want to tell you something. When I was your age, I thought 60 was really old. It's all in your mind. It's not that old, it really isn't," he said.
He is not alone. The U.S. Census Bureau says roughly every 11 seconds another baby boomer in the United States turns 60. That adds up to about 8,000 every day, and almost three million just in 2006.
"A boomer at 60 doesn't consider themselves old, doesn't think they are going to be old for another 15 or 20 years. In fact, they think they are in the middle parts of middle age at age 60," said Matt Thornhill, who heads the Boomer Project, a company that studies that huge demographic pool of 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
"That is completely different from the previous generations. In previous generations you hit 60 and you were considered old. And boomers have decided that just is not going to work for them," added Thornhill.
As they have moved through the life cycle, baby boomers, by their sheer numbers, have shaped American society. The generation that once said do not trust anyone over 30 now controls the halls of power.
In their youth, many either fought in the Vietnam War or fought against it. Showing an idealistic fervor, there were student protests for equality on the basis of sex, and race.
Their idealism has been tempered by realism. But they are gradually taking on a new cause and battling the stereotypes of aging.
"It will be the next boomer revolution," said Ken Dychtwald, who is one of the leading experts in the United States on the baby boom generation, and the author of numerous books about the aging process. "Just as there has been a revolution for this generation in civil rights and in women's rights and people with alternative lifestyles rights, here you have a generation that may very well take on the task of liberating aging."
He says this generation, more so than those that came before, has been open to growth and change. He says that may be more important now than ever, as they move into a new phase of life far more active and socially aware than past generations.
"I actually think what you are going to see, and this almost sounds ironic, is this so-called youth generation will literally come into its strength as adults and as elders," continued Dychtwald. "And it may be at the end of our days we will be more remembered for how we transformed maturity relative to how we might have stirred up youth."
The list of famous Americans who will turn 60 this year is long, and besides Mr. Bush, it includes his predecessor Bill Clinton, film director Stephen Spielberg and business tycoon Donald Trump. As they enter the seventh decade of life they can adopt as their motto the words of a singer-songwriter who became the poet-laureate of their youth. They are in the lyrics of a Bob Dylan tune that is perhaps more relevant today than in the 1960's: May you stay forever young.