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Boomer's outlook on aging changes

photo
[Times photo: Dan McDuffie]
Chuck and Linda Bonasera pose with their 1966 Mustang. They stay busy with their music, and she recently bought the hair salon where she has worked.

By JOHN A. CUTTER

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 2001


HUDSON -- As Linda Bonasera describes her childhood in New Jersey, she makes it sound like life in a Norman Rockwell painting: "loving family," "such good times," "We were so innocent," "Grandma lived nearby."

Why shouldn't she remember it like Rockwell's version of postwar Americana? She was born in 1946, the first year of the baby boom and prime time for Rockwell.

"When I was young, I used to think 25 was old," she says. "I remember being embarrassed when I was in elementary school because my mother had gray hair."

Now she realizes her mom was younger than she is now.

Turning 50 was hard, Bonasera says. "I looked in the mirror and saw these crow's feet, and my body was starting to sag. It was rough."

But turning 55 this year is making her more philosophical about aging and her place in life.

"I realize I'm my father's and mother's age. I'm them. I'm the oldest generation in the family," says Bonasera, whose mother died in 1988, her father in 1997.

It is an increasingly common experience for boomers, especially those who are now in their 50s. They lose their parents and become adult orphans, assuming the roles of parents and grandparents rather than those of children.

'Zoomers' rewrite retirement rule
The oldest boomers still want what boomers have always craved: everything. They want to retire yet work, kick back yet keep active, have fun and live well. They'll still be rockin' -- just not on the front porch.

For him, 55's a milestone on a pleasant stretch of road
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- Jim Thomas made sure no one could throw him a surprise party when he turned 50 in 1996.

Baby boomer chronology
The baby boomers born in 1946 lived their youth in some of the most exciting and turbulent times. Here, year by year, are some of the events:

Baby boomers by the numbers:
Number of babies born in America in 1946 -- 3.4-million.

If anything, turning 55 in May is making Bonasera more philosophical -- and more determined to make the most of her life.

"I guess I see my 50s as my time," she says. "In my 40s, I was raising my son, doing all that comes with being a mother. Now I have more time for myself."

She continues her career as an entertainer and has started a new one as a small-business owner.

Bonasera performs with her second husband, Chuck, in a band they call Chuck Bonasera and the Magic Touch. They do shows throughout the area, especially at senior communities. Always, she has played music, sung and danced, including with her first husband, who died in 1988.

In January, she purchased the Beacon Woods Hair Salon, where she had worked since 1997.

"It's wonderful and a little scary," she says. "My husband wanted me to do it so that I would have something to make money for myself in case something should happen to him."

As she talks about her salon, Chuck Bonasera pulls up to the front door, the picture of cool in a cherry red, immaculately restored Ford Mustang. It's a man's fantasy midlife crisis car, not bad for a guy who turned 65 last year.

The couple talk about moving into a retirement community, one of those "55 and older" places so common throughout the Suncoast.

"I get along with older people," Linda Bonasera says.

So what's old?

She pauses. "I think someone 20 years older than me, or maybe someone in their 80s."

It's said that boomers will change how we view aging, moving us further away from the stereotype that equates old with frail. If that's the case, Bonasera says, "I guess we'll have some role models, because you meet so many people, even in their 80s, who are active. It's inspirational."

Again, she sounds like someone in a Norman Rockwell painting, one with a 21st century twist.

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