Baby Boomers Retiring


Leave it to the “Baby-Boomers” to try to put their own unique face on retirement. A recent article on MSN proclaimed ‘retirement’ to be the new dirty word because the parents of aging Baby Boomers spent their retirement doing the things they could afford and in which they were interested, which is exactly how the Baby Boom generation is going to be spending its retirement, as each and every generation adds their own special preferences to what we call retirement.

But Baby Boomers believe themselves to be special, so their retirement is going to outshine that of their parents’. At least that’s what the current conventional wisdom postulates. The article talked about traditional retirement consisting of “endless golf games and blue plate specials” or shuffling “off to Florida or Arizona to await the grim reaper in a comfy RV”.

The idea of the word ‘retirement’ being considered a profanity isn’t new, as in the nearly three decades I have worked at marketing ‘retirement’ communities, calling them ‘retirement communities’ has always been considered bad form.

From a sociological or economic viewpoint the article is totally correct in pointing out that the Baby Boomers’ retirement will be vastly different from that of their parents’, as many things have changed since the Boomers’ parents started retirement.

Baby Boomers, the article predicted, would spend their time hang gliding in the Rockies or curing the sick in Africa, citing the fact that in their youth Boomers were rebellious and thus will continue to be rebellious into their old age.

Personally, I take exception to the way the Boomers’ parents’ retirement is being viewed as less worthy than what the Boomers are going to enjoy. For openers, it’s because of their parents that Baby Boomers have their magnificent lifestyle today and will continue to have this lifestyle into their old age.

The post-World War II era of the 1950s and ‘60s created the conditions that afforded the children of that generation the affluence they enjoy today. A sustained period of economic growth, coupled with the relative stability brought about by the Cold War gave the Baby Boom generation an advantage that no generation before it had.

Added to that were giant strides in nutrition and health and technological advances that increased the Baby Boomers’ life spans and productivity. A natural corollary of all these factors is a generation that is on the whole healthier, wealthier and with a broader range of interests than their parents.

But I’m not sure that the Baby Boomers as a group are any better, as the article seems to imply. Given the same conditions that the Baby Boomers enjoyed in their youth, I’m sure that the generation preceding them would have wound up with a retirement every bit as interesting, exciting and valuable as that anticipated by the Boomers. Only difference is I don’t think that they would have been as smug and conceited about their retirement years as today’s Baby Boomers appear to be.

Every generation leaves its unique mark on society, an attitude that defines their unique contribution. The generation that preceded the Baby Boomers was known for their hard work and willingness to sacrifice. The Boomers are known for their innovation and rebelliousness. How each of these generations spends their retirement is not something that readily lends itself to a value judgment. Suffice it to say that each generation does its best with what they have available.

Written by Klaus Rohrich on Saturday, 30 January 2010


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