By 2020 the median age in the United States will be approximately 38 years old. That number will steadily increase to 40 years of age by 2030, when it is expected to plateau. Furthermore, by 2030 one out of every five people in the United States will be over 65 years of age. Interestingly, life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped again this year following last year’s decline, which marked the first downturn in more than two decades. On average, Americans can now expect to live for 78.5 years. Women can expect to live a full five years longer than men: 81 years versus 76 years. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the average life expectancy will reach 84 years of age by 2050.
Baby boomers are a designated group of people who were born between 1946 and 1964. They are labeled “baby boomers” because, during this period of time, there was a statistically significant increase in the number of births that occurred. Today, primarily due to immigration, there are an astonishing 81.5 million boomers in the United States, more than 25% of the total population. The baby boomer generation is rivaled in size only by millennials—many of whom are the children of boomers. The millennial generation, born in the period from 1977 through 1994, consists of approximately 80 million Americans.
Baby boomers have shaped the cultural landscape for more than 60 years and will continue to have a significant influence on our society as they move through their so-called “retirement” years. One of the most defining characteristics of the baby boomer generation is that there are actually few defining characteristics that apply to this group. That being said, here are a number of ways that boomers have differentiated themselves from other cohorts:
Just as boomers revolutionized our society in their youth, they’re also expected to transform what it means to age in America. Most experts who study this demographic agree that the way boomers will live out their retirement years will look very different from the historical, stereotypical image of senior citizens. Medical advances will enable boomers to live longer than any generation that’s come before them, so rather than fading into the background of our society, more boomers will remain vibrant and active throughout their retirement years than was the case in previous generations.
Boomers have always been known for going against social norms, and some of their actions included experimentation with drugs, a liberal expression of their sexuality, a renewed interest in women’s rights, recognition of environmental concerns and a preference for rock and roll music. All of these characteristics, among others, shaped and defined the baby boomers’ generational identity and they are often associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values.
Many boomers are pursuing second careers or taking on part-time jobs, partly out of financial necessity but also because boomers likely derived a great deal of satisfaction from their previous careers and professional accomplishments. Just because they’ve reached traditional retirement age doesn’t mean that those opportunities to learn, earn and grow have to stop. Boomers want to continue contributing to society, although not necessarily in a traditional job setting, so they will be more likely to embrace the opportunity to pass on what they’ve learned to younger generations by taking part in activities like volunteering.
Boomers are savvier, more discerning consumers than previous generations of seniors. Their cohort size and buying power prompted companies to ramp up production of consumer goods, which multiplied their options for everything from cars to socks. Furthermore, they typically had money for these items, given that they’re more likely than their parents and grandparents’ generations to live in dual-income households, resulting in more income being spent on the myriad of consumer goods at their disposal. These dynamics shaped boomers into status-conscious, sophisticated shoppers.
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