Ruth Rosen: Are Male Baby Boomers Doomed To Become Lonely Seniors?






Ruth Rosen, Professor Emerita of History at U.C. Davis, was a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle. She is currently a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Right-Wing Movements at U.C. Berkeley and the author, most recently, of “The World Split Open:How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America.

It’s not just the young in the Occupy Movement who fear for their futures. Many older people, who are marching with them, dread retirement, even if they hate their jobs. They fear social isolation, the loss of friends they enjoyed at work and the freedom of too much unstructured time. The good news is that women are already preparing for what is often called the "third chapter” of their lives. What’s sad is that men of the same age, for a variety of reasons, are largely unprepared and less likely to participate in activities that offer stimulation and friendship....

They are re-creating opportunities to explore their lives and finding ways to resurrect the world of women’s groups that gave them the confidence to reinvent their lives decades ago....

So what are men doing? Some male (and female) intellectuals, scholars and writers joke that they don’t retire. And they’re partially right. But for men whose work was yoked to organizations, corporations, manufacturing, unions, and other institutions, the future often seems suddenly empty. Some play golf or cards or hunt with other guys; and there are groups of men who get together at a particular café, sometimes daily. Some take up cooking or gardening, and enjoy the domestic pleasures they never had time for before. But all too many sit home alone and experience too much social isolation. All too often, they depend on their wives to provide companionship....

Instead, many suffer in silence. Their isolation is terribly sad, as well as an immense waste to society. Yet there are other ways men could counter the isolation of retirement. They have endless talents and could be tutoring young people in after-school programs in academic subjects and sports. I recently visited a high school where men were doing exactly that, tutoring kids in computer skills, math and science, and passing on their knowledge of how to build and sail boats, fix old cars, use tools, and write applications. Their faces glowed with excitement as they passed on their expertise....




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