How Baby Boomers are becoming their parents



Between Dr. Spock and their overindulgent parents, Baby Boomers grew up believing that theirs was the most different, exceptional, special, brightest and best generation in the entire course of human history.

But a funny thing happened on the way from Woodstock, the Vietnam War, acid trips and the Sexual Revolution to the 21st Century: Their bodies and their minds betrayed them.

As a result, this pampered, cosseted, spoiled cohort is facing a horrible new reality. “[T]he truth is,” reports MediaPost, “they have more in common with the older demographic – the Matures – than they’d like to believe.”

Betrayed by their bodies

Leading-edge Boomers, born 1946 through 1955, are over 60 years old now, and they’re not immune to the aging process. Suddenly, they’re not half the man (or woman) they used to be.

Thanks to continuous growth of the eyeballs, for example, farsightedness has set in, so reading the type in a newspaper without glasses (or laser surgery) is next to impossible. Over time, the lenses of the eyes yellow, so color perception – of photos in ads and online or video in television commercials – changes.

Hearing – particularly of high-frequency sounds and sibilant letters – deteriorates naturally over time. With prolonged overexposure to amplified rock and roll, it deteriorates more.

And thanks to sarcopenia (muscle mass loss with aging), osteoporosis or the cardiovascular effects of just walking around with that extra 30 pounds for decades, lifestyles become less vigorous, more sedentary.

If nothing else, this means that in advertising to this cohort, marketers should use bigger type, with wider kerning (space between letters) and leading (space between lines). Keep the design clean – more like the classic Martin Agency look. If color is important to selling a product, it should be adjusted to compensate for that yellowing. Radio scripts and television audio should avoid words with sibilants whenever possible, and the mix should boost highs to compensate for high-frequency hearing loss. Audience targeting should take account of early Boomers’ less active way of living.

Mugged by reality

At age sixty-plus, it’s just a wee bit late to live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.

So today’s early Boomers have become progressively less progressive. “They are no longer thinking of themselves as experimental, risk-taking or liberal,” writes Paul Flowers at MediaPost.

Instead, they’re playing it safe.

According to Yankelovich consumer research, they’re becoming more home- and family-focused, shifting to quieter lifestyles and – oh, the horror if it! – more conservative.

“Their values have grown closer to those of their parents – and even grandparents – at the same age,” Flowers notes. “Aging boomers are cognitively and emotionally connecting to the world in the same way their parents did at the same age – or better, same stage of life. They are taking retirement, collecting Social Security, traveling to places they’ve never been, worrying about their health, and doting on grandchildren.”

But it’s still all about me

If the Boomers grew up to become the infamous “Me Generation” – and they did – they were abetted not only their doting parents and Dr. Benjamin Spock, who wrote the parenting manual those parents all followed, but also by decades of advertising and marketing.

As the largest American demographic cohort, moving through the decades like a pig through a python, they became the center of the marketing universe. So it was only natural for them to regard themselves as being the center of the real universe as well. No wonder that “[f]or most, it’s still ‘all about me,'” as Flowers writes.

Having checked off all the other boxes in the Maslow hierarchy – survival, safety, belonging – they’re free at last to concentrate (even more) on self-esteem and self-actualization. Liberated to focus on their unique abilities – whether or not they actually have any – they can concentrate on their emotional and spiritual development.

Having already collected the most toys before they die, they’re now free to start competing for the most experiences.


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