That was life in the 1950s and 60s, when today’s baby boomers were coming of age.
Punk. Watergate. The Brady Bunch. Disco. Cocaine.
Life in the 1970s – when boomers were getting married, having children, and choosing career paths – and another dynamic period of American history.
Now, as boomers come of age as seniors (although they prefer not to be called as such), it’s a whole new world again.
Quick review: US baby boomers are 76 million strong. They were born between 1946 and 1964. This year, the first wave of boomers will blow out 65 candles on their birthday cake; the youngest are 47.
Emanuella Grinberg’s recent CNN.com article, Boomers will redefine notions of age, dissects this dynamic generation, whose members haves wielded influence and transformed culture since day one.
No longer do we think of age/aging the same way. The workplace has changed dramatically too, with more women in positions of power, more adult learners in higher education classrooms, and more people changing careers later in life. Relationships have altered significantly; as per Grinberg, there are “delayed marriages, fewer children, more divorces.”
Perhaps the most monumental change? Well, the boomers certainly don’t view retirement the way their parents did, as a period “where you stop changing and growing and become a fixed entity,” says Ann Clurman, author of Generation Ageless: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Live Today.
Of course, you can get into trouble making such generalized statements, as I watched my grandfather change and grow and become anything but a fixed entity in his retirement years. If anything, he was busier than he was when working full-time. I’m sure many other boomers and children of boomers can attest to this fact. But agree or disagree, Clurman’s point about changing views of retirement are certainly accurate on many levels – there are fewer gold watch/rocking chair retirements – and in fact, there are fewer retirements overall as people are either forced to work longer for financial/health insurance coverage reasons, or as people choose to work longer because, simply, they enjoy what they’re doing.
Health care has a different look these days too, particularly programs like Social Security and Medicare – and it’s a source of major concern for policymakers, boomers and their adult children as they age. How are we going to pay for the care that boomers will need? is the question on everyone’s minds. I would guess that most boomers’ children are not expecting these social programs to hold out until their retirement years, but even boomers aren’t quite able to fully plan for their future care needs as many of them are preoccupied with caring for Mom and Dad. So we’ll just have to worry about the future generations later…
Don’t blame the boomers though, says Ron Lee, director of the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California, Berkeley. According to Lee, “The problems we’re going to have are problems we would have had without the baby boomers. They just happen to be the generation that’s initiating them. The problem is real and serious but by no means catastrophic.”
I can’t help but think of Bob Dylan’s The Times, They Are A Changin’ as an appropriate soundtrack for life in the boomer generation, although at age 70, Dylan’s several years past boomer age. Speaking of music icon Dylan, the final paragraphs of the CNN.com article cover the influence of boomers on pop culture. As the first generation of children/teens with spending money in their pockets, consultant Gary West of mrpopculture.com even goes so far as to say that “boomers essentially created the idea of pop culture and fed its symbiotic relationship with mass marketing and consumerism.” It’s all about buying power, and boomers had it as teens, thereby fueling all the music/TV rage of those pivotal pop culture years. And guess what? Boomers still have major buying power, and marketing/advertising agencies around the world are just starting to tap into it.
These are exciting times for boomers (and everyone else along for the ride). They’re transformative times, too. But clearly, given their dynamic history, transformation is what the boomer nation is all about.
Talk back: What do you think is the most exciting, terrifying, or liberating change brought about by the boomer generation?