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Hear That Thud? That’s The Elder Boom

Patricia Faust March 2023

Brain Health Expert: Patricia Faust

There is a huge shift happening as the Baby Boomers are now emerging as the Elder Boom.

This generation, known as the transformational generation, are entering their older years. What does that mean? To them, to the world. This generation’s sheer number has driven change throughout their entire lifetime.

The Baby Boom:

Post-World War II America was ripe for this explosion of births. The economy was sound, men and women returned from the war. They were anxious to start families, settle down, and enjoy the economic opportunities of the times.

“The baby boomers benefitted from a strong economy at that time. But they were also major contributors to the continued economic growth of the United States.”

The World War II generation was the most  marriage and family-focused in US history: 96.4% of women and 94.1% of men in this cohort got married at a younger age than their parents before them. This cohort had more children, sooner after marriage, and spaced closer together. On average 4.24 million babies were born per year between 1946 and 1964. In 1964, the 76.4 million babies born during the baby boom generation constituted a whopping 40% of the US population (192 million).

Boomers Impact the Economy:

The baby boomers benefitted from a strong economy at that time. But they were also major contributors to the continued economic growth of the United States. The very large generation of babies became huge influencers as they went from children, to teenagers, to young adults, and now seniors. 

As they aged, they altered the industries around them. As babies and children, they drove the sale of toys, candy, and washing machines. Then, as they became schoolchildren, the construction of new schools, and suburbs skyrocketed. As teenagers, they dominated the culture of the 50s and 60s, buying clothes, and records. This generation turned the music industry upside down, initiating the birth of Rock and Roll. And they never looked back.

Significance Of The Boomers:

“The generation born in the twenty years following World War II has been a defining force in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, they were on the forefront of social change in those decades, including the later stages of the Civil Rights Movement, the protest against the Vietnam War, and the second wave of the feminist movement.

It might even be said that those movements gained momentum because of the sheer size of the baby boomer generation, whose shared concerns and life experiences as an age cohort exerted influence on an American culture proportional to their numbers.” – Khan Academy.

Prominent boomers, like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates introduced the personal computer to everyone. The world wide web was birthed by Sir Tim Berners-Less. And, the Kurzweil 250 musical synthesizer was created by Ray Kurzweil, with advisement from Stevie Wonder.

An Endless Number Of Baby Boom Advancements:

“As a result, there are 74 million boomers moving through the benchmark retirement age of 65 at the tune of 10,000 per day.”

This digital musical instrument was able to duplicate the sound of a grand piano – a feat never before mastered. 

The advancements continued. Space exploration was challenged by President John F. Kennedy to reach the moon first. The Apollo 11 spacecraft, during which commander Neil Armstrong, pilot Michael Collins, and lunar module pilot Edwin (Buzz) Armstrong became the first people to land on the surface of the moon. This was an engineering phenomenon. Today, we walk around with computers in our pockets that are more powerful than those that flew the Apollo spacecrafts.

The Longevity of the Boomer Generation:

Advancements in medicine have allowed the boomers of today to live healthier and longer lives. As a result, there are 74 million boomers moving through the benchmark retirement age of 65 at the tune of 10,000 per day. By 2030, one in five people will be over the age of 65. The original concept of 65 as an age for retirement no longer applies.

But still, ageism exists. There are many instances where boomers are aged out of their careers. For those wishing to return to the workplace, their advanced age can be an impediment. And then there are those who enjoy retirement and depend on their Social Security checks to help pay their living expenses. This enormous group of boomers are causing many headaches.

Help Solve This Conundrum:

As the baby boomers age, the ratio of retired Americans compared to working Americans will increase significantly. This places a considerable strain on Social Security, hospitals, healthcare workers, and government agencies designed to help the older population. The silver tsunami has hit!

This is a very real problem, And ironically, the very people who might be able to help solve this conundrum, are not invited to the table for discussions. An aging brain is a powerful tool. Crystallized intelligence increases with aging. The expertise and experiences of older people can be valuable assets. Older people are the ones affected by decisions made to control costs of the senior population. They need to be part of the solution.

Disregarding the baby boomers’ opinions because they are in their seventies is foolish and short-sighted. Longevity is a reality, and a chronological age is not the answer for drastic solutions. This enormous generation is powerful, and their expertise is priceless.  Listen to them.

References:

Kiger,P. (December 29, 2010). Baby boomer inventions that changed the world. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/idUS182429596720101222

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About the Author:

Patricia Faust is a gerontologist specializing in the issues of brain aging, brain health, brain function and dementia. She has a Masters in Gerontological Studies degree from Miami University in Oxford Ohio. Patricia is certified as a brain health coach and received a certification in Neuroscience and Wellness through Dr. Sarah McKay and the Neuroscience Academy. My Boomer Brain, founded in 2015, is the vehicle that Patricia utilizes to teach, coach and consult about brain aging, brain health and brain function. Her newsletter, My Boomer Brain, has international readers from South Africa, Australia, throughout Europe and Canada. She has also been a frequent guest on Medicare Moment on WMKV and Cincy Lifestyles on WCPO.