What’s Up with Those Baby Boomers?
March 18, 2019
Baby Boomers have always had a large presence in the zeitgeist of 20th and 21st century America. These abundant offspring of thousands of WWII veterans were born into a safer, more industrialized, more educated, and more affluent era than the “middle class” had ever known since the founding of our country. Attributed widely as the generation who launched endless firsts, the Baby Boomers have indeed made their mark.
- First American generation to give rise to planned communities
- Rise of teenage economic and social power
- Medical advances including birth control, vaccines, fertility drugs, and artificial organs
- The first generation raised on TV
- Social activism: Vietnam War protests, Civil Rights struggle, sexuality hits mainstream
- Constitutional and judicial change: affirmative action, de-segregation, credit expansion
For those of us who work every day with our senior population, we have been watching, waiting, and now welcoming the Baby Boomers into their “golden years”. Since the growth of modern senior living options took off in the 1980s, trend spotters, researchers and comedians alike have observed fact and fallacies. As we know, trends shift. Forecasts can fail. And expectations are adjusted. We’re looking at a few trends forecast for our Baby Boomers, and what current data reveals!
Every Six Minutes a Baby Boomer Turns 60”(http://pewresearch.org 2010)
This quote from 2010, was shocking – and true. And it seemed to imply vast numbers of retirees would push the retirement living industry to a breaking point. However, here we are in 2019. Not only were Boomers’ savings and retirement accounts affected by up to 60% from the Recession of 2009, but many were also laid off before they were ready to retire. On top of that, researchers in banking and investing that tell us that a majority of Boomers do not have the financial resources to afford long term care. CCRCs are most often for the wealthy. In fact, most Boomers don’t have enough saved to cover 7 years in Assisted Living.
Only 55% of Baby Boomers have some retirement savings and, of those, 42% have less than $100,000. (www.pewresearch.org 2018 )
Today, Boomers born between 1946 – 1964 are now 55 to 77 years young. Early retirement is hardly spoken of in popular culture in reference to Baby Boomers. In fact, trend spotters are discussing what the best jobs are for people over 60. www.thebalancecareers.com
We know that approximately half of retirees are, or will be, living off their Social Security benefits. Historically, only 15 to 20 percent of age and income qualified households move to CCRCs. So, instead of long waiting lists at CCRCs, we are now seeing major changes in our own industry:
- At home care providers are booming
- At home care options are now offered by CCRC’s, ALFs and by insurers
- Short term respite stay options balanced with staying at home
- “Golden Girl” living arrangements offer single seniors more affordable housing
- “Small homes” in expanding markets are laser focused on seniors with limited resources
“Don’t Forget – A Person’s Greatest Emotional Need is to Feel Appreciated” H. Jackson Brown
Baby Boomers sparked anti-establishment thought and activism. Remember Free Love?! The Boomers are naturally powerful and revolutionary. They may have been regarded in their youth as counter-culture revolutionaries, but, as is true with most aging humans, they realize the need to be appreciated.
As they are aging, Boomers are reminding us that affordable health care, affordable pharmaceuticals, and affordable living are not any more important than their right to be loved, respected, and appreciated.
Boomers know their contribution to our world is considerable, but they also give credit to the values that they were raised with. Hard working, loyal, competitive, resourceful and innovative, Boomers want and will respond to recognition for their labors and their inventions.
Recognition and providing a variety of forums and venues for Boomers to share, give back, mentor, nurture, and teach are positive, direct ways to welcome Boomers into community living. These are also ways in which Boomers can influence their community, which is what they have spent their lives doing.
Purpose Giving & Personal Development Ideas for “Retiring” Boomers
- Mentor an at-risk child or teen with professional guidance and coaching.
- Foster a pet, groom furry friends, or volunteer during an adoption drive.
- For veteran or a veteran’s spouse, there are local opportunities to volunteer at USO—from greeting troops returning home, creating and sending cards to members of the military or helping decorate local veterans’ hospital during holidays.
- Knit or crochet lap blankets for homeless shelters or the American Red Cross.
- Teach or support arts programs for school children.
- Offer baked goods or meals to first responders in the community.
- For the educator, practice reading skills with school-age children, start a pen pal program with a local school, or volunteer at the library or neighborhood historical society.
- To support their peers, read personal letters or books to those who are visually impaired or volunteer as a companion.
- Create a backyard habitat for local wildlife and construct protective birdhouses for the cold winter months.
- For those who choose to drive, deliver groceries to homebound neighbors or drive them to doctor’s appointments.
- If they are politically-minded, volunteer to support a candidate or help at a polling station.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.” Margaret Meade
Lest we doubt for even a moment, that as Baby Boomers age, their impact on the world lessens. Let’s look at inventions that have all hit the market within the past 10 years. And each one was created by a Boomer.
- E Sight 3 – glasses that give sight to the blind
- Optical Character Recognition and Text-to-Speech for phones and computers
- Mass DNA fingerprinting
- Gillette Trio – a razor for assisted shaving
- Robotic arms with working fingers
- Voice-controlled wheelchairs
- Intelligent homes that are wired for safety, efficiency and remote control
- Forward – wellness clinics that offer genetic screenings, blood testing, weight-loss planning, routine doctors’ visits and more, for a low monthly fee
What’s Coming Next?
You could spend hours researching trends and forecasts related to the Boomers.But we’re here to help! Yes, things aren’t always perfectly predictable, but in politics, healthcare and housing, here is a roundup of what you should expect to see very soon.
The Boomer Vote is at its Peak
Because of their age and number – 70 million living Boomers – they are the largest voting population today. This will change within the next 10 years, as more Millennials reach voting age. As of 2018, there were 62 million Millennial’s of voting age.
However, it’s important to note – kudos to our Boomers again – that the percentage of Boomers who vote versus the percentage of Millennial who vote is much higher. Activists and opinion leaders at heart, Boomer will drive Washington for years to come.
“All in the Family”: 1 in 5 Americans today live in a multi-generational household. Not only is that a breathtaking number but consider the fact that we have not seen such levels since 1950. And, multi-generational living is increasing across all races and all age groups in the U.S.
Among seniors aged 55 to 64, 24% are living in a multi-generational household; as do 21% of those 65 and older.And interestingly, 3.2 million Americans live in households consisting of grandparents and grandchildren.
“Golden Girls”: Also known today as “Boommates”, the trend for non-related adults to live together is, well, booming! According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, the number of renters age 65 and older will swell by 80 percent to 11.5 million in the next 20 years.
Boomers who can’t afford traditional retirement living options exists at a time when housing prices are rising across the country. Nearly half of the 50-plus people surveyed in 2016 by SpareRoom, a roommate search platform, said they could not afford to rent a place by themselves, and 58 percent did not have their name on the lease.
“There are literally millions of older people who are quaking in their boots, afraid that they don’t have enough money,” says Annamarie Pluhar, the founder of Sharing Housing, an educational organization, and the author of Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for Finding and Keeping Good Housemates.
In fact, a cottage industry has sprung up in the last few years to help this demographic find roommates. Companies such as Roommates4Boomers, Silvernest, and Let’s Share Housing pair renters with homeowners. Silvernest, a Denver-based company, says that 33,000 people have used its nationwide service, which charges users $30 per pairing.
“Little House on the….”
With the popularity of HGTV and its imitators, Americans have started to catch on to the trend for “tiny houses”. What is a “tiny house”? Well, the typical American home is around 2,600 square feet, whereas the typical tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. Tiny homes may be rented or owned. They can be built on wheels or be set on a foundation.
As of 2017, only a handful of states allowed the construction of tiny houses: California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas. Look for change as our Boomers get on board with this money-saving and independence fostering idea.
By 2030, about 60 percent of Boomers will experience more than one chronic health condition. As it is, 62 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 currently have at least one chronic condition as a result of obesity (such as high cholesterol or heart disease). It’s estimated that by 2030, around 25 percent of Boomers will have diabetes [source: American Hospital Association].
Those figures alone raise the biggest challenge: cost containment. How in the world will seniors grapple with the ever-rising costs of pharmaceuticals, housing, and healthcare, when today’s costs are staggering enough?
These services and products below may give you a reason to breathe a little easier.
Boomers already take advantage of the ability to seek out and find medical information online, enabling them to ask precise questions when visiting with a doctor (and enabling them to understand the answers, as well). Online information provides instant access to a “second opinion,” or at least to the data they need that may prompt a request for a second opinion. Boomers can now learn about new medical breakthroughs and developments as they’re made available online, allowing them to ask health care providers about specific tests or procedures that may benefit them.
Furthermore, at least some of the time, the prevalence of not only online information, but actual “face-to-face” conversations with doctors, will save Boomers a lot of time and money.
Generic Drugs and Pseudo-ceuticals:
Whether or not Congress can, or will, reign in U.S. insurance companies, Boomers, like they always have will drive change to get their medications one way or the other. From legalizing marijuana at states’ levels to investing in natural, homeopathic or pseudo-ceuticals, Boomers will push for more affordable ways to manage their health.
Food as Medicine:
Driven in large part by frustrations with rising healthcare and pharmaceutical costs, seniors are finally getting on board with taking matters into their own hands, with truly healthier eating. The data is available in droves that reducing weight, improving your blood pressure, and taking daily walks, can add years to your life.
But beyond that, dietary attention really is taking the world by storm with the awareness of non-GMO foods, prevention-based eating, and brain function enhancing foods. A recent study stated that Boomers are buying more organic food items, and a larger percentage of their grocery purchases are organic products than they were in years past.
Boomers have and will continue to change the world. And the world will be a better place thanks to their size, power, and passion for continual improvement.
“While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ― Rob Siltanen
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