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MADLAND: A group blog about life in Madison, Wisconsin
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Citizen Dave: How to age in a socially responsible way
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I turn 55 today. As I enter what is likely to be the last third of my life, I've been giving a lot of thought to how a person responsibly brings the whole thing in for a landing, to put it gently.

At my age, I'm hardly ready to pack it in. I don't want to be morose here, but with what I hope is about three decades left, it's a good time to think about this issue as there's still hopefully plenty of time left to plan and prepare for the inevitable. And from a broader social perspective, it's just plain irresponsible not to do so.

There are 77 million of us in the Baby Boom generation. We tend to crush things as we go through life, just by our sheer numbers. So if we don't get this period of our lives right, we'll crush our kids and grandkids and maybe their kids. We will not be well thought of or remembered.

So, here’s what I'm doing in my attempt to get it right.

Financial planning. The American social safety net is thin and frayed. If you're relying on Social Security and Medicare to get you through, you're going to be disappointed. The more we've got socked away, the more comfortable we'll be and the less pressure we'll put on the broader society. In this sense, saving and smart investing is a social good.

Health. If we consume health care at the same rate that our parents did, we'll destroy the health care system. Staying as healthy as possible for as long as possible is another socially responsible thing to do. I try to get at least an hour of exercise at least four days a week, and I'm trying to cut back a little on the calories and bad stuff. All things in moderation.

Work. We need to stay productive without blocking the energy and new ideas that come from younger generations. I don't ever plan on retiring. It just doesn't appeal to me. On the other hand, I don't have any intention of going back to my old job either. It's time for younger folks to more into high-profile leadership positions.

Politics. Now that our society is moving rapidly to embrace same-sex marriage, maybe we can start moving on to other social issues that have previously been untouchable. One of the most important is end-of-life issues. I don't know how I'll feel if I become incapacitated late in the game, but right now I don't see the point in not ending it intentionally. I should have that option. Laws need to change in that regard, because we can consume as much health care in the last couple of weeks of life as we did through our entire life up to that point.

There seems to be a lot of bitterness around these days. Lots of carping about my money and how the government is taking it. But I don't feel that way. For the most part, I think society has treated me pretty well in my 55 years. I got a pretty good education, the air and water are cleaner than when I was young, and I don't have to live in an armed camp. What I need to think about over the next three decades or so is how I take as little and give back as much as possible.

Happy birthday to me.

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