By BOB FOULKES

At some point in our lives, we became the old farts. Once we were the bright-eyed radicals who were going to make the world a better place; now we’re the dinosaurs who took the world to the edge of the abyss. We went from hip to hip replacement.

Our children, fondly named Gen X and Gen Y, are becoming more vocal about the state of the world they’re inheriting, raising concerns about the debts incurred and getting restless about taking over the management of what’s left.

First let’s deal with the hard reality of today’s economy for boomers. A comfortable retirement for most boomers is a now cruel joke. Those of us who can retire with our gold-plated pensions or our accumulated assets can watch all this from the box seats. We got more than our share of the pie as it was passed around.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of us haven’t been as lucky. The equities market meltdown, the housing market freefall and the destruction of retirement nest eggs have forced most of us to abandon any hope of a comfortable retirement. Rising health-care costs and longer lives tell us that our savings will not be enough. We need to gather a few more nuts and berries while we can.

Our response to the situation is simple self interest. We’re not retiring; we cling to our current jobs with fierce tenacity and we re-enter the work force taking any job we can grab. The logic is too compelling. There’s nothing like the threat of a hanging to focus the mind.

Gen X and Gen Y have grown up and entered the workforce; they want jobs, jobs that look a lot like the ones we are holding on to. They’re not getting them. Unemployment rates among Gen X and Gen Y are double the national averages. In some countries, unemployment for the young approaches 50 per cent — surprisingly correlated with civil unrest in those countries.

Boomers are clogging the system; we’re refusing to go away, quietly or otherwise. We’re occupying jobs that should be theirs, slowing down their entry into the labor force, hindering their advancement and their future careers. We’re forcing them to live at home in their parents’ basements and pay their student loans with what’s left after they get paid for their minimum-wage jobs. If they’re lucky they can land an unpaid internship, a sort of Dante’s inferno of employment — all the crap with no pay and no benefits.

Political debate is informed and framed by scarce public funds, fewer government programs and a shrinking safety net. This austerity is skewed; we geezers are still holding onto what few government entitlements still exist that benefit us. Our political weight and our sophisticated political muscle seem guaranteed to preserve programs that favor of us old folks.

It’s a dilemma. Everyone knows dilemmas are not solvable, at least not easily and certainly not elegantly.

Given all this, how do we, now in our 60s, honestly engage with those under 30? The entitlements we’ve given ourselves and our demands on the public trough measured against what is available for future generations is as wide and as deep as the Grand Canyon. It is getting worse. Gen X and Gen Y have seen the hypocrisy, the greed and the narcissism of our generation. We delivered global warming, massive public debt, and an economy in which the next generation has to clean up our mess.

We need to climb into the bleachers and stop competing for jobs and public services.

In Quebec, the student protests are not about tuition increases; they’re about crippling student debt, fewer available jobs and more of the tax base earmarked to pay for entitlements for the elderly, things like hip replacements. The Occupy movement was fighting for opportunity for the next generation and pointing out the greed and the inexplicable and unjustifiable distribution of wealth to the hyper-rich. Still, we geezers seek to burden them with more costs. The crisis in Europe is a further sign of the generation-based wealth and opportunity gap. It will be solved not by boomers but by our children. The point is that the emerging political debate may be about the distribution of scarce public resources along generational lines. The fracture upsetting civil discourse and souring our society is likely to be between us geezers and the younger generations.

Everyone over 60 should take a good long look at ensuring the continuance of our social system before we try for another cash grab, another boomer tax cut or another way to get society to subsidize our comfortable life style. We need a stable, civil, democratic society to continue well into the next decades to ensure that we have some semblance of a suitable retirement. We should start acting like we need the next generation and want them to succeed. Our retirement depends on it.

We need to ratchet down our demands on society’s resources, especially those of us who are financially comfortable in our retirement. Personally, i think it is time to consider means tests for a whole host of programs for the elderly.

There is one positive thing we have to offer. Experience is hard won, usually accumulated one mistake at a time.  If we choose to  reduce our demands and look at the larger interest — the preservation of a stable democratic society — we can offer all our experience and insight — some might call it wisdom — to our successors. It is fulfilling, heart-warming missionary work. We will have to do it as coaches not as bosses or even colleagues; it’s well past time to turn over the reins.

We have seen the enemy and he is us. We should start to act accordingly.