Have baby boomers really changed all that much?

From its birth in the late 1990s, BoomerCafé has promoted itself as the website for baby boomers with active lifestyles. It was true then and it’s still true now: even though we’re older, we are a generation that would rather live active lifestyles than passive ones. On the other hand, in some ways those lifestyles have been transformed. Publisher and co-founder David Henderson has been thinking about how much we’ve changed … and how much we haven’t.

It was a conversation recently between an old friend — herself a late-blooming baby boomer, born in 1961 — and me, an early boomer, that really got me to thinking about how much this boomer generation has witnessed, the expansiveness of history and monumental events. As Joni Mitchell put it in 1969, it’s “the time of man” that most of us have experienced.

Woodstock. 1969.

Let’s face it. We boomers cling to a belief that we are young at heart but young as we might feel, we are getting older. Still, I firmly believe that baby boomers are members of America’s greatest generation — or one of them anyway — and as such, many if not most of us are not ready to give up on our dreams. Heck, some boomers have made seismic contributions.

  • Tim Berners-Lee and Vint Cerf invented the Internet (or, Al Gore if you like; he’s a baby boomer too).
  • Dr. Henry Louis Gates has helped us to “Find Our Roots.”
  • Meryl Streep has continually redefined great acting.
  • Denzel Washington has achieved critical acclaim for his film work for decades.
  • Bill Gates founded Microsoft.
  • Melinda Gates guides the global work of the Gates Foundation.
  • Ellen DeGeneres has defined the role of a LGBT activist and thoughtful benefactor.
  • Steven Spielberg one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era and one of the most popular directors and producers in film history.
  • Steve Jobs founded Apple and made it into the world’s richest company.
  • Oprah opened our hearts to sharing.
  • Madonna reigns as the “Queen of Pop.”

David Henderson

So goes the seemingly never-ending list of boomers who have left their mark.

I’d like to share with you some notes I made in 1998 when Greg Dobbs and I first envisioned BoomerCafe.com. It was from research data about baby boomers, conducted in the late-1990s. Consider how many of these factoids you believe remain valid today …

  • Baby boomers control more than 55-percent of the discretionary income in the U.S.  Yeah, whether times of prosperity or financial mess, we can usually take credit or blame.
  • Baby boomers are bound together by expectations, life skills, and values created by the unbridled economic growth of our formative years that give us a sense of entitlement.
  • Boomers are forward-looking, independent thinkers.
  • Boomers want to be on top and in charge, unafraid to act as individuals.
  • Individuality rather than conformity is a consistent boomer pattern.
  • Nostalgia is a strong boomer hook. Today among boomers, there is nostalgia mingled with a yearning for traditional values.
  • Even in the throes of nostalgia, boomers still think of ourselves as young… and we want to be treated as young.
  • Few boomers would like to be retired; we’re an active bunch.
  • Boomers do not view a leisurely retirement as reward for years of hard work. We will approach retirement as a work style, not as a lifestyle, and likely start a second career.
  • 40-percent of boomers say that travel, sports, and entertainment are very important to their lives.

Photo by Bob Cullinan, San Rafael, California.

“Time passes. Listen. Time passes,” as the great Welsh storyteller Dylan Thomas cautioned us in his masterpiece, “Under Milk Wood.”

Only time and history will tell … probably years from now … how much the baby boomer generation has contributed in the whole scheme of mankind. Did we make a difference? Did our grand expectations come true?

What do you think?

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