Itâ€™s a Boomer Month on the Net.
Thatâ€™s what the Boomers are thinking about these days.
Well, that would be the inference from this monthâ€™s GenerationWatch. Do an Amazon search on Sex and Ageing and you will come up with more than 200 recently-published books. Boomer sex is a big thing! There are some great new titles out there: â€˜Sex Over Fifty, and New Love and Sex Over Sixtyâ€™, â€˜Boomer’s Guide to Sex that (Still) Sizzlesâ€™ and â€˜Baby Boomer Bachelorette: How to Have Sex at Least Once More Before You Dieâ€™ Gail Sheehy has written a book called, â€˜Sex and the Seasoned Woman: Pursuing the Passionate Lifeâ€™, in which she writes, “Seasoned women know best how to resonate with their sexuality.â€? Women with maternal warmth and high-voltage sexuality, she adds, are “seasoned sirens.” A survey by the American Council on Aging claims that more than half of the over-60 population is having sex â€“ yet at least 40 percent want more. Joan Price’s memoir “Better Than I Ever Expected; Straight Talk About Sex After Sixty,” also pushes this new buzzword. For Price, a seasoned woman has had decades of sexual experience, is aware of what she wants and likes and is ready to track it down.
A recent survey on sexuality amongst Boomers had some interesting results:
- 75% agreed that “there is too much emphasis on sex in our culture today”
- 60% said sex was critical to their relationships.
- 50% agreed that sex is a pleasurable but not necessary part of a good relationship
- Only 50% only said sex was important to their overall quality of life
- Only 4% agreed with the notion that sex was for younger people
Joani Blank, 68, has written â€˜Still Doing It: Men and Women Over Sixty Write About Their Sexualityâ€™. She comments, “Ours is a youth culture, and I don’t have a problem with the idea that we should do everything we can to stay healthy and look young.” She goes on to say, “Most of the problem for people of any age is finding someone they want to have sex with and dealing with complicated attitudes about sex which to some extent plague all of us.” Felice Newman, a Bay Area sex educator, says that having a fulfilling and authentic sex life is possible for Boomers. “Perfect hair and skin doesn’t always mean you will attract someone or help you get a great sex life unless you know what would make you happy, in terms of what you would like, and, more importantly, what you would feel.â€? Hope for us all, thenâ€¦
But, with no reference to sex at all, the question which Leonard Steinhorn in the US asks, is whether the Boomer legacy is all it is cracked up to be. This is his opinion: â€œTo pundits, the verdict already is in: Boomers are the antithesis of their â€˜Greatest Generationâ€™ parents, who fought the good war, braved the Depression and sacrificed for all. To Greatest Generation chronicler Tom Brokaw, his heroes â€˜never whined or whimpered,â€™ unlike boomers who â€˜have forgotten the example of their parentsâ€™.â€?
So what does the latest comment on Boomers tell us? Only that they are a generation governed by consumerism. On the Net, the question is asked, â€˜Which came first? Baby Boomers or the media?â€™ University of Maryland Journalism Professor Douglas Gomery says, “Everything the baby boomers did was based on what they saw on television. They grew up as television grew up, and each had an impact on each other. In the 1950s it was kid’s shows like Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo and Disney’s Davy Crockett . When they were teens, it was American Bandstand and Ed Sullivan presenting the Beatles. TV coverage of Vietnam helped push many into the streets to protest.” He goes on to say that the boomers will continue to drive the media into the next two decades. As the largest demographic group, he says, “there is no historical model for the impact a group of people like the boomers (from 1946 to 64) have had and will have though 2020 or so.”
This Consumer Generation has a phenomenal degree of spending power â€“ and no-one knows that more than Matt Thornhill, president of The Boomer Project, a Richmond-based consulting firm. Speaking to Marketers in Washington recently, he said that Boomers want to see ads representing their age group with “vitality.” Results from surveys showed Thornhill that the average boomer feels about 14 years younger than they actually are. The Boomer Project has published research in “50 Things Every Marketer Needs to Know About Boomers Over 50,” which offers tips and relevant statistics to aid businesses in their marketing efforts. You can access the result on their website, boomerproject.com.
Of course, health businesses continue to do well in marketing to Boomers. That is not surprising, given the most recent research from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Dr Beth Abramson comments, “It was shocking to find that the rates of obesity in baby boomers have soared by nearly 60 per cent and a staggering 52 per cent are inactive.” Yet 80% still think they will enjoy a longer life expectancy than previous generations. Some of the other statistics are equally frightening:
- 30% of respondents are obese, in contrast with 24 per cent of seniors
- 52% lead a sedentary lifestyle, while 50 per cent of seniors are inactive
That being the case, I do not know how John Ivanicâ€™s prediction will possibly come true. Reflecting on the Ohio Boomer workforce, Ivanic comments, â€œIt’s estimated that 80 percent of boomers plan on working beyond the traditional retirement ageâ€?. It seems that Boomers need to be exercising more and eating more healthily if they want to live long enough to work longer! And, according to our GenerationWatch this month, there are plenty of options available for staying fit and young at heartâ€¦
First, there are Wellness Vacations. welltraveledtours.com has been set up to service â€œBaby Boomers looking to reconnect with their partners and [who want to] get back in touch with themselves.â€? Winning one of their contests for a trip to Hawaii should recharge the batteries!
Second, cycling is on the rise amongst Boomers. In the US, for example, the number of licensed racers has doubled to 5,400 since 2002, reports USA Cycling, which sponsors races and selects riders for international competition. “There’s no doubt cycling is getting more popular,” said Peter Rich, a Berkeley bicycle shop owner and a pioneer in racing, coaching and promoting the sport. “It’s partly a cultural change. When I raced in the 1950s and 1960s, cycling was looked down upon. I was constantly harassed on the road.” Rich said it has taken time for Americans to shake a long-standing bias against cycling as an activity for the poor, for immigrants and for misfits out of whack with the car culture. Then there is the “Lance Factor.” “What Tiger (Woods) did for golf, Lance has done for cycling,” said Frank Dryer, operator of Hank and Frank Bicycles shop in Lafayette. The percentage of American cyclists 45 or older increased from 17.6 percent to 21.4 percent of all cyclists from 2001 to 2004. “The boomers want the road bikes for riding long distances,” said Fred Clements, executive director of the dealers association based in Costa Mesa. “And they’re willing to pay for a specialty bike.” Road bikes cost an average of $1,100, while the average bike sold in bike stores is $400. If you want some facts and figures, here they are:
- More than 40 million Americans ride a bike at least one a year
- Cyclists outnumber boaters, golfers and joggers, but are outnumbered by walkers, campers and bowlers
- America has 1,112 cycling clubs
- Most children learn to balance a two-wheel bike between the ages of 4 and 8
- President George Bush and his 2004 Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, are bicyclists.
Third, retiring baby boomers expected to change the face of travel. The Future Foundation’s “The World of Travel in 2020” report, commissioned for the global travel giant Cedant, makes these forecasts:
- Frequent short vacations will be replaced by four vacations a year where travelers will seek an “experience” like scuba diving, caving or exploring the canopy of a forest
- Travelers will collect experiences, instead of cars or watches, and fill out “life calendars” of places they want to visit and things they want to do
- “Third-age” travelers, such as single mothers with children, or grandparents and a child, will force the travel industry to create more flexible travel formats and cost structures
- Airplane travel will double by 2015
But what sort of travel is predicted for vacations amongst emerging Boomers over the next 10-15 years? Hereâ€™s a sampleâ€¦
- Space travel, especially if you are one of the early passengers, will provide the ultimate bragging rights over your Earth-bound friends. Richard Branson has said his Virgin Galactic will be ready to carry passengers to the edge of space in two or three years. In December, Virgin Galactic announced that 38,000 people have made deposits for flights that will cost $200,000 per seat. The U.S. government thinks space tourism will happen. Late last month, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed regulations for commercial flights into space. Providing a taste of space travel to the public, the Zero Gravity Corp. has sold weightless flights ($3,750) on G-Force One, a modified Boeing plane, since 2004.
- “Baby boomers are entering the prime age for RVs,” says the Director of Media Relations for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that nearly one in 12 U.S. households that own a vehicle own an RV. Sommer said the RV industry believes that to many newly retired couples, an RV will represent freedom and independence. “We expect a lot of baby boomers to say, ‘Let’s see America, the landmarks, the national parks. And let’s visit the grandkids along the way. “
- Cruise ships will increasingly provide an extraordinary experience, predicts Jennifer de la Cruz, a company spokeswoman for Carnival Cruise Lines. “There are facilities and activities available on ships today that no one would have imagined 15 years ago,” she said. “Ships have highly elaborate health spas, mini golf courses, art auctions, 24-hour pizzerias and wireless Internet access. It’s exciting to think what the creative minds in the cruise industry are going to come up with for the next generation of ships,” she added. The biggest decision cruisers will be making is whether to take the 100,000-plus-ton super-mega ships with 30,000 other passengers or the cozier, yet costlier, coast cruisers with their 100-passenger loads and onboard lecturers.
- Experts suggest that Boomer tourism over the decade will increasingly look towards China. “China now is the fourth-largest destination in the world. In 2015, China will be the No. 1 destination for travelers from all over the world,” says Liping A. Cai, director of the Purdue Tourism Hospitality Research Center. As the Lonely Planet B luelist comments, “Shanghai is posed to become ‘the next New York.’ “
But no matter what their level of health, or how far they choose to travel, the average Boomer continues to love their music. That is why there is an enormous leap in money being spent on the products of Japanese hi-fi companies at the present time. Hi-fi companies are reacting fast to refined Boomer tastes who want to recreate the listening experience of their youth. Two types of speakers are most popular: the compact bookshelf model and the larger ‘tall boys’ models. According to a survey by consumer-electronics retailer Yodobashi Camera Co., many companies are developing professional sounding equipment, scaled-down versions of models designed for professional musicians and studios. It seems the Woodstock Generation are still taking their music very seriously indeedâ€¦
In the UK, though, there is a continuing nostalgia being serviced for Boomers through luxury auction websites, according to The Financial Times. There is a real demand for second-hand luxury goods. According to Milton Pedraza, president of the Institute of Luxury, Boomers are less attached to property: they enjoy experiences. Once a product loses its appeal or novelty, buyers want to sell it off. Furthermore, fashions today are changing even more rapidly than before. Clients are eager to get rid of unfashionable clothes and accessories. Luxury auction sites are booming.
There is surprisingly little being written about Generation X on the Net this month. This is a bit strange given the Times comment that, â€œOnce upon a time members of Generation X were a dark, mysterious puzzle that everyoneâ€”parents, marketers, journalistsâ€”wanted to solve. Who were these nonchalant products of broken homes, with their grungy ripped jeans, their devotion to MTV, their angst? Who did they admire? What did they care about?â€? Could it be true that Gen X is now â€˜understoodâ€™? Is the challenge now over?
I donâ€™t think so â€“ but I think the parameters of the discussion have changed. Perhaps Boomers have stopped trying to â€˜understandâ€™ Gen Xers and have chosen instead to accept the ambiguities of this people-group. So now Baby Boomer parents seek their Gen X-childrenâ€™s advice before buying a cell phone or choosing a restaurant. Or maybe itâ€™s as restrained as Burton Snowboardsâ€™ War Games-inspired jacket, which pays homage to a generation of Atari-playing childrenâ€”now grown up and carrying significantly hefty wallets. â€œFor us to continue to be successful, we donâ€™t have the luxury of ignoring any demographic,â€? says Bryan Johnston, Burtonâ€™s VP of global marketing. â€œAnd Gen X is a huge one. We will continue to target them in very subtle ways.â€? â€œMost companies today arenâ€™t [harnessing Gen X-ersâ€™ influence] well,â€? says Ann Fishman, president of New Orleans-based Generational-Targeted Marketing. â€œIf you donâ€™t
get the way that Gen X-ers shop, the way they buy, the way they can influence their younger siblings, then youâ€™re not understanding the new-style American market.â€?
Unlike last month, there is very little comment on the Millennials. The only major comment has revolved around the Winter Olympics in Turin, which have provided a classic example of how traditional sporting events are now attempting to reach out to the Millennials. The astounding success of snowboarder Hannah Teter is testimony to this. â€œThe first thing I said when I saw the (daily footage) come back is, â€˜Why are they wearing their own clothes?â€™ â€? said Vince Manze, president and creative director of NBC Universalâ€™s in-house ad agency. Plaid is what Teter is known for, he was told. Her fans expect it. Building on previous efforts, officials with NBC say this year they have unleashed their most sophisticated campaign to date to make the games more appealing to teenagers and twenty-somethings. Surveys revealed that those under 34 see the Olympics as â€œa nice thing,â€? but not something they felt a connection to, Manze said. For the 2006 Olympics, Manze and his team have focused
on reaching the target age group through tactics such as advertising through MySpace.com, holding opening-day parties, and placing ads in Best Buy stores.
So, thatâ€™s it for GenerationWatch February 2006. It has been a Boomer month. We will wait to see if the balance is redressed in Marchâ€¦