Here Comes the Boom

Older. Wiser. Boomer. Does anyone think about the baby boom generation in those terms now that the oldest are senior citizens? Far more common are terms like arrogant, hedonistic, and self-absorbed. Boomers “never forsook many of the habits of teenagerdom,” writes BBC journalist Jeremy Paxton, who describes British boomers as “not merely the luckiest but also the most selfish generation in history.”

But many boomers feel proud of their accomplishments — especially those who are giving financial help to both their own parents and their adult children, simultaneously.

The oldest members of the baby boom turn 68 this year. The youngest, who were born in 1964, considered to be the end of the boom, will celebrate their 50th birthdays. In between are approximately 72 million Americans who face a unique set of challenges: how to make highly personalized individual choices while moving inside a large herd; how to remain economically productive while crafting a retirement lifestyle, and how to shape their legacy.

By size alone, the boomer generation merits attention from businesses. Every day this year, and for the next decade and a half, eight thousand people across America will qualify for senior services. Every day, eight thousand householders will think about downsizing, moving to different climates, buying travel packages, shopping for the grandkids.
Businesses that serve the senior market in traditional ways expect to see massive growth in a predictable customer base. But just how predictable will those new clients be?

The oldest of the boomers are old enough to retire, and a large number of them have the financial resources to walk away from the world of work. But many of them don’t want to. According to Bill Rickman, a Perrysburg franchise consultant with FranNet, the fastest-growing group of new franchise owners are boomer grandparents who hope to leave a small business  — and a job with a future — to their grandchildren.

By their sheer numbers, boomers bring economic changes along with them. Similar economic changes are described in detail on the website Some of these changes can be disruptive to the ordinary way of doing business. But new opportunities arise whenever a group as large as the boomers begins requesting (some might say “demanding”) new and unusual choices for their golden years.

As businesses and agencies gear up to meet the new demand, it’s worth noting that the younger members of the baby boom have little in common with those who came of age during the 1950s.

People at the tail end of the boom graduated from high school just when U.S. industries began shedding jobs, closing off career paths that had been available to thousands of boomers in previous years. The youngest members, sometimes called “Generation Jones,” have been catching the bust end of every boom-and-bust cycle since the 1970s.

This monthly column is a dedicated space for examining the concerns of boomers and of businesses who want to market services or products to this sizable customer base.
We want to know how boomers are navigating these later chapters in their lives. If you’d like to tell your story, or ask a question, or propose a topic for future columns, please email me at bookreviews  at berlin do t com.  [Sorry to be cryptic — I’m trying to minimize spam. There are no spaces in the previous address, and you have to put in the “at” circle symbol yourself].
I look forward to hearing from all Mature Living readers.

Anyone looking for a personal connection should drop in for lunch with the Boomers Resource Network, an informal Toledo organization which meets at Uncle John’s restaurant on Secor Road every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Come learn about business opportunities, resources for education, financial advice, wellness, and community improvement. It’s a lively group with wide-ranging discussions.
-Copyright Cynthia Poe 2013