People try to put us down
Just because we get around
Things they do look awful cold
Yeah, I hope I die before I get old
The Who, “My Generation“ (1965)
Even if a single song could define a generation, the sentiment did not come true for many born in 1946. As of 1 January, the Baby Boomer Generation born after World War II officially begins its inexorable move into retirement throughout the industrialized west. According to the Pew Trust, “On Jan. 1, 2011, the oldest Baby Boomers turn 65. Every day for the next 19 years, about 10,000 more will cross that threshold. By 2030, when all Baby Boomers will have turned 65, fully 18% of the nation’s population will be at least that age, according to Pew Research Center population projections. Today, just 13% of Americans are ages 65 and older.” The impact of Boomers moving beyond 65 will be stunning and predictably unpredictable.
The Boomer generation makes up a quarter of the US population. And as a quarter of that population moves toward retirement over the next eighteen years, the pressures on Social Security, on health care, on services and products for the aging community will become ever more notably acute. But so too will the opportunities for providing services, products, and policy answers that help deal with the shifts.
As Dan Barry writes in The New York Times, no generation can be encapsulated by a single event, and perhaps such a warning is most appropriate for such a large generation of people born between 1946 and 1964. To take but one example mentioned, many Boomers protested the Vietnam War with sit-ins, strikes, and hallucinogens, whereas many other Boomers achieved distinguished military records in that war.
The Boomer Generation is largely perceived, even by its members, as the most dynamic and pampered of generations. Boomers grandparents and parents wrestled with The Great Depression and defeated Fascism with street-fighting through Berlin. Boomers grew up with television and unchallenged economic growth through the 1950s and 1960s.
And yet, the Boomer Generation has also endured a notable uptick in the mid-life suicide rate, according to sociologists Ellen Idler of Emory and Julie Phillips of Rutgers Universities – perhaps due to their heightened self-awareness of expectation as youth that did not seem to be matched by where they were in middle age.
The official start of the Boomer community’s move toward the contemporary retirement age is certainly a notable biological, sociological, and economic milestone. MKCREATIVE will be looking at the issue periodically over the next number of months, especially looking at the ways nonprofits and health-care concerns are preparing for this seismic shift in demographics and economic alignment.