There is a great and hugely unsettling disconnect in the way advertisers and the media approach the over 50’s demographic. They often paint Baby Boomers with such a broad brush that they become almost unrecognizable. “Senior”, “elderly”, and “unwired” are just a few of the terms that send Boomers up the wall.
Baby Boomers are the “Sandwich” Generation
Boomers, children of the free-spirited 60’s and 70’s, hardly ever fit into a plainly defined model. Some are married with small children, others with grandchildren. Others are in the double whammy, the “sandwich” generation that looks after aging parents and young adult children or grandchildren simultaneously. They date longer, marry more than once, and they’re into a hundred and one different activities, going about things in their own, highly impervious ways.
The truth is simple: if there is one thing people can take to the bank, it’s that Baby Boomers will go kicking and screaming till the day they die.
The Word “Senior”
For a long time, the word “senior” was used to define the 50 plus demographic. Whilst it’s an easy handle, it has different connotations in different parts of the world. In Asia, for example, it is treated as a term that denotes respect and wisdom. In most English-speaking western countries however, age does not command the same respect and, on the contrary, terms such as elderly and senior irritate Boomers endlessly.
Why is that? Why are Boomers allergic to terms such as senior or elderly? It’s mostly because these labels come with a truckload of emotional baggage. While technically correct, for those of us over say 55, “senior” conjures up images of walkers, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. “Boomers” on the other hand has a cool ring to it, reflecting back to how liberated and “anarchist” we were in the 60’s and 70’s.
Baby Boomers Will Always Be Young
“Senior as a term needs to be dropped off a cliff,”saysPhil Goodman, founder of the Boomer Marketing & Research Center in San Diego, USA, and Boomer guru to various US companies. “Boomers will never be like their parents and grandparents; in their mind, they’ll always be young.”
Echoing the same mindset and talking about the over-50 community in the US and other English-speaking countries, “They’re having a second middle age before becoming elderly,” says Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, a New York-based marketing firm. “And they’re making it up as they go along, because it’s never been done before.”
Unwired? Who’s Unwired?
Furthermore, Boomers are no longer “unwired”. People had better dump that term into the nearest sink hole. Baby Boomers no longer rely on snail mail, print media, and television for their information and news. Here are a few facts, courtesy of the Pew Research Center:
- 70% of Baby Boomers use the internet actively
- 95% use the internet for email
- 77% shop online
- 71% browse online for health information
- And 70% keep up to date online with world news
The Baby Boomer Saga
Another aspect of the Baby Boomer saga has to do with their longevity and aspirations. A few decades ago, most people had only a few years to live by the time they retired. Most workers retiring today can look forward to 15-20 years of free time and, thanks to medical advances and healthier living, remain active for most of it.
Lastly, Boomers have a huge impact as a consumer block. Across Australia, the UK, Canada and US, statistics on over 50’s reveal they purchase more than 40 percent of all new cars and over 80 percent of luxury new cars.They also represent more than 80 percent of leisure travel, and they buy 74 percent of all prescriptions and 51 percent of all over-the-counter drugs.
Will there ever again be sounds like those booming from the guitars and drums of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the BeeGees? or laments and lyrics like those of Bob Dylan? Truth be told, popular music and rock ‘n roll will never be the same after the 70’s.