American Demographics, a publication that measures the whimsies of populations segments and doles out marketing advice, put out an interesting June edition that focused mainly on the divisions that mark US society. One article, “The Second Coming of Age,” was about what’s ahead with the aging of the Baby Boom generation. Frankly, it’s not a particularly pretty sight. The sardonic tone of the article was interesting, and some of the figures cited seem instructive given that Ed Duke has raised the question of Baby Boom volunteerism and giving.
Since you need a subscription to get into the AD site, I’ll quote pretty liberally.
It should be no surprise then, that the “zipper effect[*]” should welcome us to “the age of the aging Boomer consumer.” Because Boomers have clung to their youth so long; because no one in marketing wanted to disillusion them about their denial over aging and because it is politically useful to curry their favor, the emergence of Boomers into the autumn of their lives has been long in coming, but short on wide recognition of the dramatic consequences that a generation of aging, self-centered, self-serving and long-lasting “idiosyncrats” will have on our social landscape.
…While headlines continue to suggest a shared vision of a technocratic, networked, youthful connected future of spiritually profound, justice-based, caring, diverse and peace-loving global tribalists, a big problem is creeping up: Greed, class and a fault line across generations. There are 75 million Americans over the age of 50 according to Census 2000. Of these, 20 million are Boomers. And, there are 55 million Boomers between 41 and 50. In any case, 75 million Boomers made it past their halcyon, rock-charged, drugged, Vietnam, crazy ’80s youth and young adulthood, and have begun to arrive at the sunset of their lives. (There are those who wish the National Traffic Safety Council, Ralph Nader and seatbelts had never been invented.)
…There are now 34 million Americans over 65 and 1.5 million Americans over the age of 90. Roughly 300,000 of these are over the age of 100. This is more people over 90 or 100 than in all of American history put together. And these people are already flexing their class muscles. Just try to amend any provision within Social Security, health care for the aging or attempt a school, fire or police bond initiative. You will discover that protection of the interests of older people is job No. 1 in American electoral and budgetary politics.
…Those 75 million over-50s hold roughly 90 percent of America’s $44 trillion in liquid assets. If autumnal Boomers follow true to form, they’ll grow more conservative in their investment practices, they’ll aggressively assert their entitlement rights and they’ll be more defensive in expressing their social obligations to the generations that will (one can only hope) succeed them. Furthermore, if Boomers hold true to form, they are likely to spend the vast percentage of those assets on travel, leisure and their pursuit of an eternal woody. The kids will get thanked in the wills.
…Boomers will leave a legacy of debt and obligation to their children[§]. At the same time, health care will be divided between gerontological services and everybody else. Speed limits will be reduced. Drugs will be legalized for seniors. “Aging-farms” will dot the landscape. Labor will be concentrated on eldercare services. In fact, if the amount of work that it takes to care for an aging person today remains a constant into 2020, more than 20 percent of the American economy will be engaged in eldercare, and 40 percent of the wages earned by providing such care will go to pay for the care being provided. Yikes!
…As they become more expensive, Boomers will become more politically realistic. Gone already is political support for the quality of education they both enjoyed and supported as young parents. At the same time that support rises to preserve cost-of-living escalators in pension and Social Security payments, support erodes for public service compensation, labor unions and the minimum wage. Cost-of-living escalators have disappeared from municipal budgets. Labor unions have enormous difficulty making their case for higher wages, even as technology drives productivity higher and higher. And the minimum wage: wow. Had cost-of-living increases been applied for the last 40 years (minimum wage law came into being in the mid-’60s for the benefit of Boomer teenagers), the minimum wage would now be $8.50 versus $5.15.
Jeez, I feel like jumping off a bridge. Although I’m not technically a Boomer (born three weeks before the official January 1, 1946, start of the generation) I feel the author’s bony finger of scorn pointed at me. Or would he want to say, “It’s not all about YOU!!”