Commentary: Boomers being left out? Readers offer their views

Bill Walczak

Writers sometimes wonder if their opinions are even read, let alone provoke reactions. My column last week on Baby Boomers potentially being left out of the plans to re-start the economy seemed to strike a nerve, especially with the Boomers themselves. I got 86 responses, with many of the readers offering their own opinions. They came from public officials, media members, heads of schools, nonprofit leaders, a Catholic nun, a well-known artist, a political consultant, medical people, business leaders and some people I don’t know.

The responders fit into a number of categories: 63 mainly said that they liked my column and/or that it expressed their views; 7 were upset at the term “boomer remover”; 9 mentioned the importance of the presidential election (including one who defended Trump); 5 talked about my friend who had died and offered condolences; and 2 asked about how I planned to get a haircut.

One reaction that I thought was particularly important was that people in risk categories may be called back to work, but they feel that they are endangering themselves if there is not adequate testing and other safety measures. If so, they could be seen as abandoning their jobs and be dismissed for not showing up to work. These issues need to be taken seriously by our elected officials as reopening of the Massachusetts economy in four phases starts on May 18. The first part of the plan will be issued soon from the governor’s office.

Following is a sampling of reader comments:

“You raise a very real likelihood being pushed closer to reality by Trump and his goons: Seniors should stay closed up for a year, but everyone else open up. I wonder if in the push to reopening, the country will just accept growing death counts as the cost of doing business. It is really sad that we are at this point in our country.” 
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“As we open up with a phased-in approach, we have to take into account people over 60. As you point out, they are in a higher risk category.”
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“Good piece, and of course we feel the same way, as do our boomer friends. But what exactly can we do that won’t be too late?”
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“Without testing and a vaccine, we are home to stay!”
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“This is a terrific piece. It confirms my impression that Trump will lose the senior vote which dooms his chances in Florida (and elsewhere).”
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“We are lucky to have had 8 weeks on Zoom because that will force the other generations to continue to include us that way.”
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“You're making such a powerful point. I've read op-eds by African Americans expressing fear that the virus eventually will be seen as a "black disease," because of the disproportionate death toll in their communities, and thus won't get the attention it deserves. But I haven't read anything that so convincingly defines the issue for us "old folks," especially those of us who until now didn't see ourselves in that category.”
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“Boomer remover? That’s cold.” 
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“You are on your own! I am a Gen Xer!”
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“I think another aspect of the boomers being left out is the impact it will have in the workplace. For example, if the boomers who are most at risk lag in their return relative to their co-workers, will those "shut-ins" experience implicit or explicit age discrimination because of their lack of presence?”
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“I'm feeling that despair you mention, and rage at the unmasked individuals I encounter on my daily walk (generally at a safe distance b/c I leave myself room to escape.) I'm quite afraid that those in power will succeed in disenfranchising the voters that might oust them - by preventing mail-in votes, for example.”
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“Boomer Remover’ might really be the destruction of deep knowledge and skills, and not to mention emotional intelligence and maturity, that anchor our society.”
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“The answer isn’t in universal testing. Sadly, the only answer is herd immunity like every other epidemic. Sweden addressed this by having herd early and we will have it late with many hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccines won’t be ready in time.”
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My response: Waiting to see which boomers will volunteer to be in the herd. 

Editor’s Note: A consensus listing of generation categories: Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964. Gen X: Born between 1965 and 1980. Gen Y, or Millennials: Born between 1981 and 1994. Gen Z: Born between 1995 and 2015.

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