Please – no more!
If I have to read one more article about the looming crisis facing the world economy as Boomers prepare to retire, I think I will scream! None of us need reminding about this fact anymore (although many businesses need to wake up to it – which is exactly what helps many to achieve) – but the Internet seems obsessed with the fact this month! Similarly, there is an overabundance of articles on the looming pension crisis and the sale of retirement properties and so forth. But is this all that is to be said about Boomers these days? Not good for their self-esteem, I’m sure. So it’s no surprise that, according to WQOW 18 in Chippewa Valley, drug counsellors are increasingly treating Boomer Meth-addicts! If there is nothing left to say about a whole generation other than their retirement plans, it must be getting very dull indeed. Women in Canada, apparently, are trying to buck the trend by working longer than their husbands. And in Japan, some women are waiting until their Boomer husbands retire before going out to get their own job! Things are not so simple as it seems at first…

And, of course, it’s Gen Xers like me who need to be worried. In the Guardian newspaper at the end of March, we were warned in the UK that Baby Boomer care will treble by 2026 to £30bn per year. By that time, the number of people aged over 85 in the UK will have risen by two-thirds and the Government social services will be in crisis. Let’s watch the burden of tax rise to meet this… Still, we all know that Boomers enjoy life to their max: witness the new Cincinnati nightclub that has just opened called – you guessed it – “Boomers”. No need for me to tell you who the clientele is and what music is played! A little more exotic, probably, was the ‘fest’ held for Boomers inside Diamond Head Crater on Hawaii at the beginning of April. Thousands of Boomers flocked to the concert to hear the Steve Miller Band, Linda Ronstadt, Yvonne Elliman, WAR and the Honolulu Symphony. Woodstock it was not – but “a splendid time was guaranteed for all”, as a top Sixties band once sang! And, as the Sydney Morning Herald commented in April, “While the Rolling Stones are still performing, Baby Boomers never need to grow up!” Hats off to Samsung who are cashing in on the Boomer music-interest by introducing the new mobile phone called ‘Jitterbug’ – special features including large buttons, an easy-to-read display and high sound quality.
All this is good news for Boomers who no doubt want to share their experiences with others. If you can relate to that, you may want to check out, and online forum for middle-aged women to gather and exchange information. There are discussion forums for everything you can imagine – and a few for things you couldn’t imagine too!
Forget Generation X…
…and start thinking about Generation Yo-Yo. These are the Gen Xers who are living with their parents, then moving out, then back with their parents, then moving out, then…well, you get the point. Sarah Jessica Parker’s new film, ‘Failure to Launch’ deals with this issue brilliantly, touching on the fact that more than 18 million US adults from 18-34 still live at their parents’ home. The impact on the economy – on consumer purchasing and housing, for example – is huge and this is a global issue, of course. For those of us who are interested in tracking generational core values, we can see that this is an inevitable result of Gen Xers need for both independence and autonomy.
Not that this is making Gen Xers any happier, according to Peter Carlson in the Washington Post. According to Carlson, “Generation X are on the verge of turning 40, and apparently they’re getting cranky about it.” Allegedly, they are fed up with the legacy and self-mythologizing arrogance of Boomers and irritated at the airheaded Millennials with their boundless enthusiasm and naivety. Generation Xers, so it seems, are the real Grumpy Old Men!
“How’s your digital self doing?”
…That is the question Adri Mehra of the Minnesota Daily is asking. According to ‘techie sociologist’ Sherry Turkle, your “digital self” is your computer-based personality – the composite of what you present via e-mail, chat and personal online sites, a cyber alter ego. Millennials have a strong sense of ‘digital self’ that may be very different from their actual persona. Apart from the internal psychological fracturing that this can cause, there are also huge implications for the family, for friendships and for Millennial interaction in the workplace. The question of ‘reality’ is not so simple for this generation and, as a result, loyalties and priorities may not be so clear cut for our young people.
One of the positive aspects of the Millennial generation is that they seem far more trusting of their elders than did Generation X. In the New York Times recently, Jonathan Glater noted that Millennial students are far more likely to approach tutors about personal problems as well as academic problems. The onus is on tutors to keep professional boundaries, of course, but as Glater notes, “Students today are trusting children. We…should honor, serve and teach that trust.” I guess this is as true for those in business leadership as it is for those in education…
Paradoxically, Jim Chabin CEO of Pomax/BDA speaks of how game marketers need to change their traditional practices to get through to the Millennials who he describes as “the most cynical demographic ever.” Millennials will make up 50% of the US adult population within five years and need to be taken seriously as consumers. Chabin notes that this demographic group are the least open to messaging as well as being the most cynical – a tough group to market to! In a wonderful quote, he says, “Your target audience has the attention of a nanosecond, they multi-task constantly and they have zero loyalty”.
Yet it seems that loyalty does not need to be bought for Millennials to respond to issues of global justice and the environment. In an article entitled, “Teens try to change the world, one purchase at a time”, Jeffrey MacDonald of the Christian Science Monitor argues that an increasing number of Millennials are “smitten by a marketing atmosphere that links attractiveness to eating well. And when it comes to buy something even as small as a chocolate treat, they feel good knowing a farmer somewhere probably received a good price.” Eating morally is becoming something of a priority for many Millennials. What started as a fringe activity on university campuses is now a mainstream preoccupation for this generation. Fair Trade food is now the product of choice. It all started with coffee, of course, but there is so much more to choose from these days. Furthermore, many high street shops in the UK are now using Fair Trade cotton for clothing – and the range of products is just as good as ‘mainstream’ items.
It would be wonderful if political parties could translate this new social conscience into voting potential. That is exactly what the band Green Day is trying to achieve in the US. They are encouraging Millennials to register to vote via Text Message at their concerts. Music for America is an organisation that Green Day have linked up with. Its president, Molly Moon Neitzel, says, “Our mission is to engage young people in politics through music communities every day. You can talk the talk – but to walk the walk, you have to register votes every day.” The Democrats, in particular, are excited by this new initiative.
Not everyone is quite so enthusiastic about the Millennial Generation, however. In a new book entitled, “Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled and more miserable than ever before”, the author argues that the Millennials have become “an army of little narcissists”. They have never needed to put duty before self, they are obsessed with self-esteem and believe anything is possible. They expect to go to college, to make lots of money and then become famous: traits that can only lead to an emotional crash later in life, according to Twenge.
Mmm…it’s a risk I’d like to have taken at their age, methinks…Perhaps our world could do with an optimistic generation in the face of the state we are currently leaving the world in for them to inherit. Good luck to them, I say!

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