Not long ago I wrote a post about not feeling any older now than I do when I was decades younger. I mentioned that my mother had felt old when she was forty. It wasn't necessarily just my mother/parents who seemed a lot older at, say, fifty than my generation often does. Also, there are times when there are jokes about how my generation (The Baby Boomer Generation) refuses to get old, no matter how old they get. :)
First, I'd like to point out (just because I don't want anyone thinking I'm even five years old than I am (lol) ) that I'm a second-wave Boomer. That's not the real point here, though. There are a few things I wanted to comment on about my parents' generation (The WWII Generation, of course).
My parents and others of their generation (at least working-class people) were children and teens when life was a lot harder than it has ever been their children's generation. It wasn't until the 1950's that a lot of conveniences are even available to people. All that aside, my parents' generation went through the Great Depression. Then, of course, there was WWII. My father was in it. My mother had married a young man (had no children) who would be killed in it. Her brother was among the many, many, who were injured. People of the WWII Generation often worked a lot harder (physically) than people of their children's generation ever would. Obviously, there are exceptions to a lot of this on a case-by-case basis; but in general, that generation didn't start to have an easier life until the 1950's; but that's when so many people had young families AND continued to work physically demanding jobs. The work of (most often) mothers was more difficult as well, because, for example, people of that generation didn't have microwave ovens or clothes dryers.
Like my generation, many of them cared for their elderly parents. My parents' generation, however, lived quite a bit of life before a lot of advancements in medicine had come about. My father's little three-year-old sister died of Diphtheria. My mother wouldn't let us kids go swimming in pools or lakes because of fear of Polio. I could go on and on, but the point is life was a lot harder in any number of way for my parents' generation.
It was their generatation that worked hard to make sure their kids had those "American-Dream, white-picket-fence, houses" (ours had a chain-link fence until, like so many other families, my parents bought a new house in the suburbs where the schools were new ). No, things weren't perfect; and yes, there were certainly families who didn't live anything close to that American Dream; but it didn't take a huge income to do just that; so loving, hard-working, parents could very often provide a fairly struggle-free childhood to their children. First-wave Boomers were the first group of teens to have their teen years considered "special". Before that, there wasn't any "special category" for teens. In fact, a lot of teens married and had children, and nobody thought much about it.
The toll that WWII took on people at the time wasn't something that they went through and would "just get over". They moved on, but they moved on having lived through, witnessed, and worried about things that would stay with them all their life.
So, life and struggles were more demanding for my parents' generation. Yes, we have struggles today, but still they were of a different nature. That's not saying that people today don't have all kinds of unhealthy stress that will make them sick and/or make them feel older; but overall, my parents' generation had things a lot harder. (Well, a silly example, I have never in my life hung clothes on a clothesline.)
Of course, they also lived most of their lives at a time when nobody really realized how bad things like eating meat or smoking area. In fact, in the properity of the 1950's and 1960's, having meat-and-potato every night for dinner was what a lot of people did. They believe it was feeding their family well. Eating "junk" wasn't generally what people did, and oddly the children of my generation didn't have the same weight problems that today's kids do. But so many people of my parents' generation died sooner than they needed to. It wasn't all cigarettes and high-fat meals that killed a lot of them, though. It was also how hard so many of them worked, and how much stress so many of them lived with.
So, a lot of them aged earlier than they should have; and my generation didn't really have any role models when it came to "what forty really should be" or "what fifty really can be". Many just took for granted that what their parents were, or how they felt, at fifty was how it is. On the other hand, first-wave Boomers and those who followed got to forty, fifty, and sixty and just weren't as worn out as their parents had been.
The Boomers, so many of whom had had parents who made sure they had the opportunities to get a better education and be able to find less physically demanding work that paid more than their parents' had been paid (at least in a lot of working-/middle-class situations), had grown up to confidently see the better lives they had and sometimes, I think, mistake those easier lives as a sign of being superior to their parents. Of course, the arrogance, confidence and sometimes ignorance of youth contributed to this sense of superiority to their parents' generation. And maybe too few parents of the WWII generation sat their kids on their bottoms and told them, "Look. You are what you are because of us!!!" I suppose a lot of parents just didn't want to punch any holes in their kids' confidence. Maybe, too, they were simply to happy for, and proud of, their kids who had so often accomplished what that their parents had hoped they would.
And so, a whole lot of Boomers got to take their sometimes misguided confidence (even arrogance) into the start of middle-age; and as they started to reach their fifties and sixty, a whole lot of Boomers just thought that they were " doing middle age" and "late middle age" better than their parents had, just as they had done education, careers, and child-rearing better than their parents had. (Again, I know such blanket statements don't apply to everyone, by any means. They're pretty much a reflection of a lot of thinking, though.)
Not all that long ago, I passed my sixtieth birthday. As I was thinking about what that meant, and as I realized I didn't feel any different than I ever have; one of the things that struck me about what turning sixty meant was that I have grown children who would benefit from having someone be a good role model for how good (and even youthful) sixty can be. After all, I hadn't had that. In fact, my father died at sixty-two when I was twenty-one. It wasn't my parents' fault that I didn't have someone being a role model for looking and acting and thinking young, and it's not lost on me that I had two amazing role models for people who take on the responsibilities "of the world" and spent twenty-hour days, with little or no time off, taking care of that world.
Still, I have the opportunity to be some version of an example of what sixty can be (and hopefully, what ninety can be) for my own kids; and while I have illusions or delusions about the fact that they look at me and see me as "old", my kids will see a different sixty than I saw in my parents; and they won't see that because of some "superior" thing about me. They'll see it because my parents' generation raised their kids with the kind of childhood they did, and with the idea that their own children would be better off than they had been - even if it worked them to death to accomplish that.
My parents' generation played the hand that was dealt them. For the most part, nobody's life is guaranteed easy, and things have been harder for my generation than for my parents' in some ways. Even so, though, my generation was dealt an easier hand than my parents' generation was; so if a lot of us "do sixty" better than a lot of them did I think that's why.