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Baby Boomers Say, Occupy Retirement!

March 7th, 2021

Do you hear a growing rumbling in the short distance? Chalk it up to the coming the Baby Boomer Express, an enormous number of older folks in this country getting ready to retire. Just three years ago, Boomers began turning 65, took their IRAs and pensions (if they had them), and started quitting their jobs and drawing social security en masse.

Who are these boomer-people, and why are they scaring so many politicians and younger folks?

Add 65 years to January 1st, 1946 and you come up with January 1st, 2011 — the moment when the first Baby Boomers started reaching retirement age. According to a report by the Pew Research Institute, on that very day, today, and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach age 65.

What Are Boomers and Where Did They Come From?

So who invented the term Baby Boomers, and how are these Boomers shaping the world to come?

When World War II ended, and after U.S. troops came home, they quickly settled down and started having babies. You have seen the classic advertisements and sit-coms: slender moms wearing aprons and tending to their young children, while dad and his briefcase are on the job. You know, hat June and Ward Cleaver look…

Boomers really have already changed America through every stage of their lives – education, family planning, employment – and now, Baby Boomers are Coming of Retirement Age, and making a bigger impact than ever before.

Here are several statistical facts from the U.C. Census Bureau to consider – facts that scare politicians and make younger people true believers in the power of the Boomer generation:

Some 78 million people were born between 1946 and 1964, which is defined as the Baby Boomer era, the largest in American history.
In 1957, alone, 4.3 million babies were born in the U.S. This is more than any year before or since.
In 1965, 36% of the U.S. population was under 18 years of age; today 18% is under 18.
Here is still more to consider from the U.S. Census Department and other research organizations:

The first boomers turned 60 on January 1, 2006. (D’Vera Cohn and Paul Taylor)
Every 7 seconds an American turns 50 — more than 12,500 people every day. (U.S. Census)
As of 2009, 48 is the largest age group in the United States. (U.S. Census)
By 2015, those who are 50 and older will represent nearly half, or 45% of the U.S. population. (Cohn and Taylor)
By 2030, the 65-plus population will double to about 71.5 million, and by 2050 will grow to 86.7 million people. (U.S. Census)
Of the 72 million family households in the U.S., 34 million of them are baby boomer households. (MetLife Mature Market Institute)
A 50-year-old female can expect to live 82.5 years; a male 78.5 years. (The National Center for Health Statistics)
At first, this may seem like a lot of raw numbers and statistics to make much sense of, but what do these numbers really tell us, and what do Boomers think and want?

First of all, and perhaps even most important, is that the United States is seriously about to change regarding its composition. For now, just 13% of Americans are 65 years and older. But by 2030, only 18 years away from now, when all members of the Boomer generation have reached that age, fully 18% of the U.S. will be 65 years and older, according to Pew Research Center population projections.

(Even if it appears that we are talking about old folks, let me clarify – I am a 64-year-old Boomer, born in 1948, and like most of my cohorts, I believe that old age does not even start until age 72, a fact backed up by Pew. While about half of us might say we feel younger than our actual age, fully 61% of Boomers are feeling more spry than their age might imply. Most Boomers, in fact, feel nine years younger than their true age.)

Things Are Seldom What They Seem

While the stereotyped image of a happy retired man on his way to the fishing stream or joyful retired grandparents on a jaunt to Disney World with grandchildren, this age group comes to mind when the word “retirement” appears, in fact, this age group is not as upbeat as one might think – even if most don’t feel particularly old for their age.

“Baby Boomers are more downbeat than other age groups about the trajectory of their own lives and about the direction of the nation as a whole,” report D’Vera Cohn and Paul Taylor, for Pew Research Center.

In fact, just two years ago (2010), Pew researchers found Baby Boomers to be a “pretty glum” group of folks. Some 80 percent said they were dissatisfaction with “the way things are going in the country today, compared with 60% of those ages 18 to 29 (Millennials), 69% of those ages 30 to 45 (Generation Xers) and 76% of those ages 65 and older (the Silent and Greatest Generations), according to an additional 20120 Pew Research Center survey.

Boomers Both Gloomy and Hopeful

“Some of this pessimism is related to life cycle — for most people, middle age is the most demanding and stressful time of life,” report Cohn and Taylor, citing psychological research (Stone, Arthur A. et al, “A snapshot of the age distribution of psychological well-being in the United States,” PNAS, June 1, 2010, Vol. 107, No. 22.).

Yet, it was Baby Boomers, who in the 1960s expressed high hopes for remaking society, while spending most of their adulthood “trailing other age cohorts in overall life satisfaction.” (We wanted desperately to change the status quo, but this never happened.)

More Cohn and Taylor findings about Boomers helps others understand who they are – and what they want. These stats particularly stand out –

Baby Boomers are more accepting of changes in American culture than adults ages 65 and older, though generally less tolerant than the young.
Regarding personal finances, economic security and retirement expectations, Boomers feel more damaged by the Great Recession than do older adults.
Late-comers to high tech, Boomers are beginning to close the Internet and social media gap with younger generations. Fully half of the younger Boomers (ages 46-55) now use social networks and than half (55%) of older Boomers (ages 56-64) now watch online video.
Like most U.S. citizens, Boomers have done some partisan switching in recent years, and narrowly favored Barack Obama for president in 200.
In their core political attitudes about the role of government, they’re more conservative than younger adults and more liberal than older adults, according to a comprehensive 2010 Pew Research report.
But, a new Pew Research survey finds Boomers oppose legislations that would take a bite out of their own pocketbooks…some 63% (compared with 58% of all adults) oppose raising the age for qualifying for full Social Security benefits.
WHEN RELIGION COMES INTO the picture, Boomers appear to be less religious that people over 65, but more religious than younger adults. Less than half (43%) say the a “strong” members of their religion – higher than younger adults and lower than older folks. Less than half (40%) say they attend religious services once a week. Some 13% report having no religious affiliation, again – less than younger people but more than older adults.

*****

For myself, as I have quietly moved into this over-60 group, I have been thinking a lot, recently about the quality of the rest of my days, the consequences of the decisions I have made and a legacy – even if it is unassuming, and am reminded of a quote by the philosopher Nietzsche, “The consequences of our actions take hold of us, quite indifferent to our claim that meanwhile we have improved.”

We still have time to make a difference, to improve the world; if our own gloom will not overtake us. I only hope that our last years are filled once again with hope matched by action.

Let us get going, and Occupy Retirement!

Susan Klopfer, author and speaker, writes on civil rights and diversity. Her newest books, Who Killed Emmett Till?” “Where Rebels Roost: Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited” and “The Emmett Till Book” are now in print and are carried in most online bookstores including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and in eBook versions on iBooks and Smashwords. “Where Rebels Roost” focuses on the Mississippi Delta, with stories about Emmett Till, Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Amzie Moore and many other civil rights foot soldiers. These books emphasize unsolved murders of Delta blacks from mid 1950s on. She is also the author of eBook, Cash In On Diversity. Klopfer is an award-winning journalist and former acquisitions and development editor for Prentice-Hall. Her computer book, “Abort, Retry, Fail!” was an alternate selection by the Book of-the-Month Club.

Social Media and Baby Boomers

February 7th, 2021

Social media usage among baby boomers is increasing, but it still lags in usage as compared to successive generations. Introduction to the internet for most boomers is focused on email and basic e-commerce applications. Somehow many boomers managed to live without computers really touching their life for several decades, and when the internet arrived, they were not early adapters of the trend, but found themselves dragged into its use. Now social media is truly a part of our social fabric and has many benefits, and yet many baby boomers still hesitate to embrace social media applications in a similar way they resisted adapting the computers and the internet. Hesitation to go online is often not because of lack of interest but because many technologies and social technologies are not developed with older people in mind.

What is social media?

When I ask baby boomers what they believe social media is, I get varying answers, but in the end the answer is usually popular social network sites such as, Facebook. So I offer this definition for future reference:

Social media includes web-based and mobile technologies for social interaction as a super-set, which goes beyond social communication. Enabled by ubiquitously accessible and scalable communication techniques, social media has substantially changed the way organizations, communities, and individuals communicate.

Facebook and other social networking sites are just one element of social media. There are currently six different categories of social media: collaborative projects (e.g., Wikipedia), blogs and microblogs (e.g., Twitter), content communities (e.g., YouTube), social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), virtual game worlds (e.g. Social Life), and social markets (e.g. Groupon). Technologies include: blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs (a form of blogging for which the medium is video, and is a form of Web television), wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing and voice over IP. Many of these social media services can be integrated via social network aggregation platforms (the process of collecting content from multiple social network services, such as Twitter or Facebook). These categories will continue to evolve as new forms of collaboration is introduced.

A good analogy is, “social media is to social networking as fruit is to bananas.” There are other forms of social media as there are other forms of fruit.

Adoption Rate Lags for Boomers

A Pew Internet & American Life Project (Rainie, 2010) compared internet usage of baby boomers to internet usage of the millennial generation, ages 18 to 32. Results found that boomers internet usage is very similar to millennial usage in regard to emails and e-commerce:

Emails: Boomers 91% vs. Millennial 94%
Search Engines: Boomers 88% vs. Millennial 89%
Health Info: Boomers 78% vs. Millennial 85%
Get News: Boomers 74% vs. Millennial 83%
Research Products: Boomers 81% vs. Millennial 83%
Buy Goods: Boomers 70% vs. Millennial 81%
Travel Reservations: Boomers 68% vs. Millennial 62%
Banking: Boomers 55% vs. Millennial 58%
Auction: Boomers 27% vs. Millennial 26%

The overall composite score of this survey is boomers 70 percent and millennial 73 percent. Clearly, usage is very similar between generations for internet applications involving the basic search functions, email use and e-commence of the internet. But when social media usage was surveyed the differences were quite significant:

Video Sharing Sites: Boomers 45% vs. Millennial 85%
Use of Social Network Sites: Boomers 39% vs. Millennial 81%
Rate Product/Services: Boomers 27% vs. Millennial 38%
Read Blogs: Boomers 26% vs. Millennial 51%
Post Comments: Boomers 25% vs. Millennial 33%
Share Creations: Boomers 23% vs. Millennial 38%
Have Websites: Boomers 11% vs. Millennial 18%
Twitter: Boomers 10% vs. Millennial 29%
Blog: Boomers 8% vs. Millennial 18%

The composite score for use of social media is boomers 23 percent and millennial 43 percent, boomers social media usage is nearly half of millennial usage. Now, this research is a couple of years old and the overall adoption has proportionally increased, but it’s unlikely that the gap between generation has changed substantially. Many boomers have established a presence on sites like Twitter and Facebook which counts for social media usage, but rarely is it used to communicate with others in their generation. Instead, much of the increase in Twitter and Facebook accounts by baby boomers are related to business and not for personal use. The reason for this is in part how baby boomers were educated and how they organize data.

A Generation Gap May Explain Differences

The bifurcation in social media use can be explained in large part by the differences in early development of each generation. Oddly enough differences between people of a younger generation and their elders are termed the generation gap. A term popularized in Western cultures during the 60s and at a time when baby boomers were expressing their displeasure with society.

It is a fact baby boomers were raised in an environment that was much different than the millennial generation. Baby Boomers grew up in an era that was much more structured. Boomers played by the rules and focused on building careers. They would wait for news in newspapers, write letters to communicate with distant family and friends, write checks and go to a bank to do business, and participate in face to face meetings at the office.

The millennial age prefers more informal arrangements. They are known to be more independent, flexible, and incredibly sophisticated with technology. They grew up with technology and have been exposed to it since early childhood. From the internet, IM and MP3s to handheld video games, mobile phones and texting, the millennial generation is used to tactile, instant, and constant communication. They prefer to communicate via blogs, IMs and text messages, rather than on the phone or face to face, methods preferred by Boomers.

These differences are evident in the study above. E-mails and e-commerce applications are accepted by baby boomers because these applications are very structured, for example; there is a section for the address, subject, and message within e-mails. In e-commerce, there is a product selection, a shopping cart and checkout process. A structure well defined and in keeping with the way boomers were trained to think in life. Not surprisingly, these applications were developed by a generation of baby boomers.

In contrast, a social media application works in a virtual setting and requires much more abstract thinking. For example, a social network is made up of “friends,” many of who you may not know. Messages are sent by leaving comments instead of directing it to a particular individual. It’s a different way of thinking for baby boomers, so it is difficult for a structured mind to comprehend. The advancing computing concept of “The Cloud” is another virtual concept that is difficult for many baby boomers to understand. A commonality between the advancing computing concepts and social media is that they are being developed and driven by members of the millennial generation.

With upcoming advances in technology and the Internet, we will continue to see bifurcation in adoptions of these advances primarily because of the differing perspectives in the formative years between the creators and the baby boomer users. Although bifurcation is evident, there are many important benefits for baby boomers to stay involved and to participate in a virtual world. Exploring these benefits will be the subject of subsequent articles.