Lunch reveals lives of older boomers

We are seven women of a certain age, who are lunching together at Kate’s place to celebrate my long-time friend  Sheryl’s birthday.   Sheryl is a baby boomer creeping further into her early 60s and we range in age from her sister, Diane, the youngest at 58 years of age to Margaret, who is 70 years of age.

As we munch on a delicious Moroccan banquet, it  is interesting to note that we  reflect the lives of  almost 25 per cent of Australia’s population according to the 2011 Census, released last week.

One in four Australians are in those two age brackets – from 55-64 (11 per cent) and from 65 years and over (13.3 per cent).

Our conversations reflects our lifestyles and concerns of our age. Frail, aged parents are a concern for Sheryl, Diane and myself with their mother almost 90 and my father a relatively fit 93.  Both parents are virtually blind and my father is deaf, too.   Margaret tells us that she is contemplating selling her home and buying into a retirement village.  I have just moved into a new home which my late husband and I built after razing his 50-year-old house and I won’t be moving any time soon.

Six of us have been married, but only one – Chris – is still married.  Diane has been in a long 35-year de facto relationship as Sheryl says “That’s longer than most marriages.’’ Four  are now divorced and living alone and I am recently widowed.

Our four divorcees reflect the life circumstance of 11.3 per cent of Australians according to the Census gathered last year – or 1.8 million Australians who are separated or divorced.

Sheryl and I have been friends for more than 30 years and over that time, we have grown into older women together. We are both dog-lovers and have our own homes on the typical quarter acre block.  Whilst we have both retired within 12 months of each other, Sheryl has returned to a part-time job.

We women represent other social facts as well.

As a new widow, I note that there are just under a million of us – 936,813 who have lost their partners to death – or 5.9 per cent of Australia’s population. Clearly I am not alone in my new status.

The numbers of separated or divorced Australians has increased by .5 per cent to 11.3 per cent from 10.8 per cent – a significant proportion of the population to show that “happy ever after’’ is a fading dream for many.

Each of us is a home owner, with our host, Kate, living in a single storey attached stylish dwelling with a single garage under the main roof.   Five of us live in lone households.  Interestingly, typical of baby boomers in midlife, all of us have made housing changes. Five have sold up their homes and moved elsewhere, not necessarily into smaller homes.  Sheryl has built a large, stylish extension onto her Edwardstown bungalow. “That has changed my life and I am certainly not moving anywhere else.’’

Margaret is the only one contemplating moving. She moved from a long-time home at Glandore into a unit at Fullarton three years ago, and tells us she is considering selling up to live in a high-rise retirement village.

“I don’t want to care for the garden anymore,’’ she says.

Although we voice concerns over this, we are all mindful  that different housing choices may need to be made sometime in the future if we suffer ill-health or when we become frail and aged.

We reflect our fertility years, too, with five or us having been mothers and now, too, so many years later, the facts and fortunes of our adult children and grandchildren form the crux of conversation.

The other unpalatable issue is that we all now know someone close who has died since we gathered together, the most recent being my own husband, Olivier, of prostate cancer.  But they knew women who had died of various cancers and this news was exchanged with sad reflection.

Then there was the moment when I took the attached photograph and said if they didn’t all smile I would call out “sex!’’ like I did when I worked in a newspaper office. Sheryl “what’s that?” and Kate came back with “who cares!”.   Someone else added “I pass!’’.  Their comments support other relationship research which revealed only one in three women over 60 still have sex lives.


In a recent article by Bernard Salt in The Australian, he commented on the Census defining the “five tribes’’ that shape our modern nation.  They are The inner-city elite: a fast-rising population living within a 5km radius of the centre of all capital cities.

The suburbanists – the largest single collection of Australians being 13 million residents.

The sea-changers – a relatively new phenomenon in Australia’s cultural landscape – where mid-lifers move to live in “lifestyle towns’’ dotted along the foreshores of the states.

The other two are the “rural heartlanders’’ which categorises 5.3 million residents of regional and rural Australia – up 11 per cent over the past decade. Lastly he identifies the “outbackistan’’  who live in the far-flung great Australian frontier.

However, I reckon Australians are still much more easily identified by their age and lifestyle demographics, regardless of where they live.

Our birthday lunch, sitting with six other women at the same stage of life and talking for three hours about our lifestyles, issues of concern to us and choices is a far more powerful tool to identify cohorts.

Our lives lived bear a striking resemblance to each other, even though we are absolutely different in professional background, political persuasion, career choices and personal life history.

Our lives are not characterised by where we live – because that is all over the Adelaide metropolitan area, but by our health status, whether or not we are still in paid work, the caring roles of our ageing parents and their various stages of disability, the needs of our adult children, our grand-children, decisions surrounding retirement and work choices.  And while it was only Margaret, who is beginning to think about downsizing, retirement housing and how to fund our retirement are issues at the forefront of our minds.



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1 Comment to “Lunch reveals lives of older boomers”

  1. By Jack Robair, 11/03/2013 @ 3:56 pm

    Almost exactly nine months after World War II ended, “the cry of the baby was heard across the land,” as historian Landon Jones later described the trend. More babies were born in 1946 than ever before: 3.4 million, 20 percent more than in 1945. This was the beginning of the so-called “baby boom.” In 1947, another 3.8 million babies were born; 3.9 million were born in 1952; and more than 4 million were born every year from 1954 until 1964, when the boom finally tapered off. By then, there were 76.4 million “baby boomers” in the United States. They made up almost 40 percent of the nation’s population.:

    Most recently released short article on our very own online site

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