In my mid-50s, I’m pretty much in the middle of the boomer generation, which is defined as those born between 1946 and 1964. My friends born on the “leading edge” not long after World War II can recall the 1950s when middle class life seemed very similar throughout the country. They watched “Gunsmoke” on black and white televisions, played games outside after dinner and turned into teenagers about the time John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated.
My age group grew up post Viet Nam during a time of relative ease including disco, Jane Fonda workouts and big hair. The younger, “bleeding edge” boomers have had access to a broader range of pharmecuticals, relaxed social morays and computer technology.
All that said, as boomers we are the largest demographic in the country. Our huge contingent has enormous buying power and a tremendous desire not only to maintain our independence into old age, but to maintain and improve our quality of life. Our retirements will not look like our parents.
No, boomers want to be recognized for their individuality and to live healthy, creative lives. To that end, many embrace taking responsibility for their health – physically and psychologically. These days, research and experience gives them lots of ideas about how to reach these goals, too.
How boomers will redefine old age
In a recent blog article Shelly Beach, the author of three caregiving books, suggests boomers will:
- Reinvent retirement: they will seek satisfying second careers.
- Serve as caregivers: they will develop creative ways to care for themselves and others.
- Insist upon quality of life: they care about health, fitness and nutrition
In the same article, nutritionist Beth Reardon says her boomer clients are committed to changing the aging paradigm into one of health as opposed to inevitable chronic disease and death. She strives to help clients make healthy lifestyle choices so they can avoid the many chronic illnesses that precipitate a premature, downward spiral in overall health.
As part of that new paradigm, fitness expert and founder of falls prevention program “Fall Stop….Move Strong,” Celeste Carlucci says, “Preventative awareness has come earlier to the boomer generation. They are a generation that changed the world in many ways and work hard to maintain their health.”
Retirement will look different for boomers
Just as boomers changed the way Americans look at relationships, divorce and family life, they will greatly affect what we once considered retirement. In their day, boomers were at the forefront of delayed marriages, fewer children, more divorces and now our national perception of careers and retirement.
“Boomers are all about exploration and transformation. Many of them reject the idea of retirement that they saw firsthand with their parents, where you stop changing and growing and become a fixed entity,” said Ann Clurman of The Futures Company, which tracks consumer attitudes that forecast lifestyle and behaviors, and author of “Generation Ageless: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Live Today.”
“Boomers have a hard time giving up control. For them, control is a fundamental right born out of basic entitlement — they grew up in a time of unprecedented economic prosperity and a basic feeling that the struggle for survival was over,” said Clurman.
In addition, boomers were the first generation to embrace computer and digital technologies. University of Oklahoma history professor and History Channel resident historian Steve Gillon, who wrote the book “Boomer Nation” said technology will continue to play a big role in boomers’ retirement years.
“People with specific skills will use the Internet to take advantage of the breakup of hierarchies in the economy and remain involved in their fields, be it through consulting or using social media to find professional communities or networking groups,” Gillon said.
“Many boomers have a desire to stay involved and connected; they’re not going to give in to the dictates of age and accept the older model, he continued. “They’re going to find ways to stay socially, intellectually and physically active.”
Are you a boomer? What are you doing to enhance quality of life?