Congratulations, millennials. You now outnumber a dwindling number of baby boomers like me. You should be elated. I know I am. Now you will be the focus of any social-science news. You are now the primary specimen in society’s demographic petri dish.
But as you take the reins, here are a few things you can do for me.
I am 62. My knees hurt, and I have a bit of pre-dementia. I often call Betty, the dog, by our chicken’s name, Helen. Yes, yes, chickens. Neither seems confused by my confusion (although, I think Helen’s eggs have become bigger). I worked some 40-plus years, finishing on a low note as a barista after losing my professional job during the Great Recession, laid off by my older baby-boom brethren.
Retired. Not working. The relief is palpable. No anxiety from an unfinished project from the day before. No commute. No workplace politics. No arrogant customers or clients. This is the legacy I leave you, my millennial friends.
This month, I will begin to collect Social Security — $1,100 a month. No pension or 401(k) to speak of; those were drained to get me through the recession. I have no car; I rent a room in a private home; I am amicable with my divorced wife, and I have two adult millennial children who text their love.
Finally, even with my modest means, now I can avail myself of the countless senior discounts and benefits society provides, from eggs and toast at Denny’s to reduced admission at a Marcus cinema. It’s good to have gray hair.
But it is not enough. I want more.
First, Social Security. I want all you millennials to, right now, stop what you’re doing, walk into your HR office and ask — no, demand — of your human-resources boss that you want to pay more in FICA taxes. Double your contribution. Doing so will ensure that Social Security will endure for a millennium. Do it for Doug. Then I want the Social Security Administration to end annual cost-of-living (COLA) increases and replace them with a merit-based system. I deserve more than a putrid COLA can provide. Millennials would understand.
“Mr. Champeau, what have you done since you retired to merit an increase in your Social Security benefit?”
“I cleaned out the bleeping basement!”
Merit increase approved.
Then let’s work on this medical thing. It’s been more than a half-century since LBJ did Medicare and Medicaid. Thank goodness I’m poor enough to be covered by Obamacare, and thanks to the Supreme Court for taking my blood pressure. You millennials now own the stethoscope. But I will not be satisfied until my policy has a dedicated 411 number for medical needs. When I dial that number, I want a Gladstone-bag-equipped doctor to come to my door, armed with Vicodin and other opiates, and ask one simple question:
“Where does it hurt?”
Then let’s talk about transportation. You expect me to ride the bus? No, no, no! With Car2Go ably implementing a car-share program, and with Uber ousting taxi service, I want a creative millennial to implement an enterprise (with government incentives if necessary) to create SeniorRide — a fleet of 1965 Chrysler Imperials. Big, intrusive and blinkers always on.
And finally, a personal concern: SeniorGrowler.
Both baby boomers and millennials have convened to create a web of microbreweries throughout the Twin Cities and nationwide, offering the most sublime comestible beverages I have ever tasted. And to think I spent my productive years consuming languid lagers.
Even in my own neighborhood on St. Paul’s East Side, both Sidhe and Flat Earth exist to provide me a wonderful ale. But until I can access SeniorRide, it’s difficult to pick up a growler or two. SeniorGrowler would allow old farts like me (with an app perhaps) to have a growler delivered to my door as by the milkman of yore.
Million-dollar ideas? I’m envious of the millennial generation for the chutzpah to breach convention, for living without fear of failure. (Perhaps millennials know there’s always a bed and fridge at the parents’.) Regardless, the country and Minnesota are well-served by your risk-taking.
What? My advice for you? Thanks for asking. Avoid war, debt and high-fructose corn syrup. Now, get those growlers rolling.
Doug Champeau is a writer from St. Paul.