Recently, I have found myself sharing conversations with other baby boomers, like myself, who echo a sense of dismay over how life, as we know it, has so drastically changed over the course of our lifetime. Surely, it must be the most extreme, compared to previous generations.
The nearly 79 million-strong baby boomer population, born between 1946 and 1964, are not only significant for their numbers, but also their distinct social and demographic characteristics. In 2011, the first of the baby boomer generation reached the age of 65, and for the next 17 years, nearly 10,000 boomers a day will celebrate their 65th birthday. That is a lot of candles!
The Woodstock generation, with their collective spirit of optimism, exploration and achievement, have definitely left their very own unique and distinctive impression on the world. Baby Boomers came of age during a period of U.S. history in which the complexity of family life increased dramatically (Cherlin, 2010). Boomers had front seats for:
• The Civil Rights Movement
• The Women’s Movement
• Dramatic shifts in educational, economic, and social opportunities
• Man’s first steps on the moon
• At least four major wars
• The creation of the first computer
• The assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King J
Not to mention they:
• Have lived through economic explosion and collapse
• They have challenged underlying values and attributes of society
• Have higher rates of separation and divorce; lower rates of marriage with fewer children
• On average, are healthier with longer life expectancy
• Have more varied work histories, and work more of their adult years
• Have influenced education, fashion, music, race relations, sex roles, hair-length, and child-rearing (remember Dr. Spock?), as well as key societal institutions.
Whew! The list goes on and on, but in summation, baby boomers have redefined each stage of life as they experienced it and are known to be goal-oriented, adaptive, and focused on individual choices and personal freedom. Just think, the boomers have already lived a lifetime, and technology has only blossomed in the last 10 to 15 years. True to form, baby boomers have embraced technology as a lifeline, enabling the preservation of autonomy and identity—a voice and new tool to enable them to take charge of their own life as physical agility fades.
According to 2010 Pew Research Centre’s Internet & American Life Project, “…the 74+ age group is the fastest growing demographic among social networks. Currently, there are 39 million people aged 65 and older using Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.” The study also showed that seniors reported feeling happier due to online contact with family and friends through social media. Through online connections, more seniors feel empowered and connected while fewer suffer depression from the helplessness of isolation.
The American Academy of Neurology published a new study which involved 294 seniors who were tested for memory and cognitive thinking every year for six years, then examined for physical signs of dementia. The people who were mentally active, maintaining a steady stream of stimuli through technology, displayed sharper wits and intellect, whereby those devoid of social media stimuli showed more advanced signs of aging with greater incidence of memory loss and inability to retain information. Well I guess that conflicts with the reports from Korea about “digital dementia.” Everything in life is a double-edged sword with good and bad attributes alike. The difference is usually in ones preferred slant or persuasion.
To be honest, I don’t consider myself a senior citizen yet, although there are days when my joints would argue that point. “Determination” is definitely a boomer trait I happen to possess and for that I am grateful, as it has enabled me to embrace technology with all of its idiosyncrasies. Personally, I welcome the rapid pace of technology; the faster it moves, the more I will have the privilege of experiencing in this baby boomer lifetime. I say, “Bring it on, baby! oh, and while you’re at it, please pass the green tea.” J(^U^)