Fifty five million Americans are age fifty five and older, according to the United States Census Bureau, of that number, thirty five million are age sixty five and older. By the year 2030, the sixty five and older population will double to seventy million, and the fastest growing segment of the older population is age eighty five and older. The baby boomer generation will soon reach the retirement age, and expected to redefine old age. Just as they have redefine every stage of their lives because boomers will be the largest generation of elderly, they will impact everything from housing to health care as the market and society caters to their wealth, longevity, and interest in new technology (Dytchweld K. 1999). The baby boomer generations also the first to have the luxury to examine personal issues and raise questions concerning work, health care, technology, politics, and social and moral issues (USA Today Magazine, November 19, 1999).
No other generation reflects the complex world we live in today. The baby boomers have left their indelible mark on America’s social landscape. The baby boomers created pop culture and a new form of political activism (Breaux J. November 1999). Education, medical advances, and technology afforded more freedom and independence. Soon America will look different; the average age of the population will go up to fifty-five. The baby boomers will have the benefits and face the challenges of longevity. Can America afford the social, medical, and political issues the aging baby boomers demand? Will our transportation system ensure more old drivers have safe alternatives? How will our national housing policy adapt to the senior boom? How about the pension and financial plans that allow older Americans to move in and out of retirement (Breaux, J. November 1999). The size and distinct characters of the baby boomers will not only create a sense of urgency to current issues, but also create a whole new set of aging issues.
Among the many cultural contributions of the baby boomers along with the free love, the drug scenes and Grateful Dead ties, was the concept of generation gap (Veith G.). In every other culture and throughout history, children were socialized to be adults. When children grew up they took their parents places, roles and their values. There was no separate subculture, no music and fashion to set off the younger generation from their parents. Children were dressed, for the most part, like little adults, but in the mid twentieth century, American culture became stratified along generational lines (Veith G.). The generation prior to the baby boomers, after World War II, had extra ordinary prosperity and better living through technology, may have spoiled their children a little. The baby boomer generation never concentrated on learning their parent’s skills and disciplines, but worked hard on entertaining themselves. This process was helped along with not only television, but perhaps even more importantly radios and record players, which made possible the mass production and nationwide distribution of music (Veith G.)
The baby boom generation has always been in the spotlight reshaping every American institution. As children, the public school systems were reinvented to meet their needs. As young adults, music and pop culture was drastically changed by their participation. As they move towards old age, they will also redefine and revolutionize the American aging experience. Baby boomers have reaped the benefits of change. They grew up with more education and high expectations, technology and medical research have blossomed throughout their lives and they have come to expect lifestyle improvements in every turn. With their political clout, they will expect the government, corporate America, the research community and the health care sector to meet their growing needs. Government policies should encourage private sector investments in products and services to help the needs of the aging baby boomers and reflect the diversity in lifestyle, race and income of the future senior citizens.
For the last few decades the influential baby boomer segment of the population dominated the American culture virtually in any aspect. Television programming may not specifically target baby boomers, but since baby boomers fit into the prime eighteen to forty nine year old or twenty five to fifty four year old demographics that are preferred by most advertisers, the baby boomers are, by default, the biggest part of many network audiences (Walther C. 1998). Because the baby boomers capture the lion’s share of attention from programmers and advertisers, programming might change to attract the demographics. We are now seeing a change on today’s cable programming, we now see more cable network stations that cater to travel, such as the Travel Network, educational programs like the one’s shown in the Discovery Channel, technology and information systems like Tech TV and many more. The biggest network that is boosting high following from baby boomers is the Home and Garden TV (HGTV), which profiles people who have undertaken midlife career or lifestyle changes; and vacation living, a program targeting the more affluent and older baby boomer segment considering extended vacations (Walther C. 1998). Networks will also use on air talents with “a little gray hair”, use older music that is familiar to the boomers, or try to reach or alter programs for boomers to fir their lifestyle (Walther C. 1998). Music videos are even changing nowadays, Music Television (MTV) still caters to younger viewers, but Video hits One (VH1) has change their focus. Rather than focus on a general audience, they are specifically targeting baby boomers with their shows. They are featuring artists that the baby boomers listened to while growing up. Artists like the Beatles and the Beach Boys just to name a few.
The supermarket of the future will be redesigned; they will carry more varieties of foods and products that will be geared towards the needs of the baby boomer segment. Prepared take-out food, more organic fruits and vegetables, specially prepared and raised meat products are some of the varieties that we can expect to be a main staple on future grocery store. Services such as banking and laundry services will also be provided to consumers to maximize the consumer’s shopping experience. The baby boomers will influence how our food will be manufactured, the concern on health and moral values will force the food manufacturers to reshape the way they prepare and select their ingredients (Saccomano A. 1999). They have to offer foods that will benefit health or fortified products that contain vitamins and nutrients. Since the boomers will be the leading edge of expectation and preference, with their demands on quality and convenience, will also benefit all consumers, young and old.
One impact that the boomers might have on the next generation is family values. Because the boomers have singularly devoted to their personal needs and wants one consequence on that attitude of self-centeredness is the high divorce rate of baby boomers (Monaldo, F. 2000). The high divorce rates of the baby boomer generation have deprived their children parental guidance and love. Unfortunately payback maybe looming. A new study led by Lilliana Pezzin , a Professor of medicine at John Hopkins University, documented what common sense would have predicted. Children learn from their parents, even the unintended ones (Monaldo F.2000). The children of divorced parents offer far less care for their aging parents than other children whose parents stayed together; they also receive far less financial help from their children. A large number of baby boomers may find themselves in a lonely old age cared for by institutions and uncomforted familial ties. The generation that thought mostly of themselves may find themselves living on their own with out any family support (Monaldo F. 2000)
American’s longer life span mean that many will continue to invest, and they will be spending more money during their retirement years. From age sixty-five to seventy five, they will be spending as much money as usual (Fahey M. 2001). From age seventy-five to eighty five to eighty five they will be slowing down and may want to start helping their children and grandchildren. After age eighty-five they will be spending more of their money for medicinal purposes. Investment brokerages, banking institution and financial services will benefit from the infusion of savings and financial planning that they will be involved in.
The growing numbers of baby boomers with medical situations are on the rise. In the article, A Baby Boomer Boom (Kirchheimer, B. 2001) Trent Healthcare Corporation (A For Profit Hospital), during the six month period which ended November 30, 2000, say that volume at the hospital rose twelve percent for people aged fifty one to sixty years old. They expect that the usage of the hospitals by the elderly will increase in even greater numbers in the years to come. With this knowledge they plan to focus on treating the types of medical problems they are most likely to experience: cardiology, gynecology, orthopedics, oncology and neurology. Other fields of healthcare will be in optometry and audiology. As people grow older, eyesight and hearing are usually the two senses that will deteriorate before the body gives way.
Pharmaceuticals, and drug store chains will be affected greatly by the emergence of the baby boomer into the retirement age. The youth obsessed baby boomers will want to maintain a youthful appearance, long life cycles of anti-aging creams, hair color treatments, nutritional supplements, and a host of future products that can promise to make people look and feel younger. Retirement communities will be growing tremendously, for those who are physically and mentally independent. There are more people now that are into physical fitness these days, as a result future seniors will be more healthy and capable on caring and providing for themselves. They will have future needs for recreational activities, so businesses that cater to different types of physical activities and leisure for the aging will do very well. There is a downside to this. After age sixty-six, the likelihood of a person developing Alzheimer’s Disease doubles about every five years (Dytchwald, K. Dec. 18. 2000). Unless a cure is found in our lifetime, it is estimated that the disease will strike fourteen million baby boomers by the middle of this century, up from four million today. Dytchwald also notes that the duration of the disease, which currently averages eighth to ten years before death will continue to be prolonged to fifteen to twenty more years or more.
One of the first support groups businesses will be interested in are the children of the retiring people. Most retirees will not want to or can not afford to live in a retirement home, especially with the increase of elderly abuse in retirement homes that are always featured on the news media. The children of retirees will not want to place their loved ones in such facilities, therefore businesses should look for ways to help or change the situations to make the children of the aging population to feel more at ease on placing their loved ones in retirement facilities. In home care for those who are disabled and living with their loved ones, will be something that the family will need so that their normal life activities, will not be affected with the burden of an incapable elderly staying in their home.
The need for more nurses and doctors for in-home and hospital care will be greatly in demand, for there will be many more people in the future because of the influx of the aging boomers, that will need specialists to care for them. There will also be needs for more health care facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals and retirement homes for those who are sick and do not have the support of their families to care for them.
Healthcare insurance is another business that will profit greatly as the boomers enter the retirement stage of their lives. There will be a great demand for medicines, most, of which will far exceed the income of the elderly. People will be looking for the best and cheapest way of filling prescriptions, making them shop smarter for insurance carriers causing these companies to compete and give better assistance to the consumers.
Private transportation companies are another business segment that will be positively influenced by the need of the elderly for mobility. We have seen recent reports on TV on the problems of the elderly driving and controlling their vehicles. At a certain age people lose their ability to operate motor vehicles, and people are still unsure of public transportation especially places like Southern California where people are dependent on driving around by themselves. Once driver’s license are taken away from the elderly do not mean that they will lock themselves up into isolation. There will be a great need for alternative transportation for the one’s that need mobility and do not want to be dependent on other people to get them to places that they need to go, like medical facilities, recreational facilities and grocery stores.
Gays and lesbian baby boomers are another group that specialized businesses will cater to. The demand for housing communities, social organization facilities and lots more will be rising because the gay and lesbian communities will intend to invent their own way of retirement, one that celebrates being part of a like-minded community (Rosenberg, D. Jan. 15, 2001)
One change that the baby boomer population has changed is the way they do and deal with politics. The baby boomers will be very influential in the political arena, changes that they have demanded are more directed to problems of the population as a whole. The baby boomers have brought together all races to the bargaining table. Realizing the past generation’s mismanagement and prejudicial incompetence, the baby boomers are now exercising their own judgement to mend the thinking and past practices of the pervious generation in politics. Baby boomers no longer believe in follow the leader, they will question whatever they think is wrong or they will need explanations and justifications on issues that will affect them. The boomer generation has enacted laws regarding discrimination in the workforce, childcare and safety laws, environmental issues, just to mention a few. Baby boomers know that in order to have a strong and united country, we must learn to change our thinking, attitudes and behavior on diversity. This attitude of the baby boomers will be an example for the generations to come, who in turn can make any type of prejudice a thing of the past. To truly show the attitudes and positions of the baby boomer generation, an article from the Suburban Boomers Take on City Hall from Macomb Township to Westland (Detroit News Oct. 10, 2000) showed their activism in politics. They are voicing out their opinions and feeling to the city hall politicians about their discontent on the way things are enacted on their city. The article also claims that the baby boomers have been awakened and are desperate for change on issues like environment and government, it says that the baby boomers are now in the driver’s seat and they will make changes according to their needs. (Celente G.).
Baby boomers are taking control of their lives. They will be changing politics for the good of everyone else. Changes in world trade, globalization, social security, Medicare and human rights will be enacted as they take control of the voting majority. The baby boomer generation is getting old and wiser, changes in policies toward health care and other needed reforms will be expected to conform to their retirement needs. They grew up independent and would like to stay that way and not depend on the next generation for their retirement needs.
To elaborate more on the subject of health care concerns of the baby boomers, an article written by Amy Turnbull, (Morning Star November 15, 1999) Quoted Mr. Patrick Brady, who is the executive director of Citizens for Long Term Care (CLTR), a non partisan Washington D.C. based nonprofit organization that wants to raise awareness of problems in the long term care system. He talked about problems that can be exacerbated as baby boomers age. Mr. Brady told residents and others at the Manorhouse that in thirty one years, more than twenty percent of the population will be sixty five or older and the cost of long term care will be astronomical. By 2030, unless significant changes are made in America’s entitlement programs, social security spending, Medicare and federal civilian and military pensions, spending will exceed the government’s revenues.
In conclusion, The baby boomer generation will be the largest retiring population that our society will experience. They will affect decisions that in turn will be the basis on how society will live in the near future. Because of their political clout and voting power the baby boomers will basically decide the future of the nation, how society will view beliefs, how laws will be enacted and create more laws that will be made for the needs of the retiring baby boomers. Because of their wealth and longevity, many businesses will cater to their needs, changes on food manufacturing will be affected for the better, and we will see more nutritious food and many more facilities offering convenience. The medical fields will be impacted the most by the retiring baby boomers, the need for more facilities, better services and care, and effective prescription drugs will be in high demand in the near future. Future careers of people will also be impacted by their retirement; people will get jobs that are related to directly or indirectly to the needs of the retiring baby boomers. Research and technology will also benefit from their retirement; their usual demands for better things will predict what new ways people will be doing or making in the near future. Everyone should be made aware of the consequences of the retiring baby boomers. There will be lots of technological advances and exciting changes that will happen, but there are also issues that the nation as a whole should start thinking and finding ways to solve right now, issues like social security benefits, Medicare, aging society issues, medical care and many more. Facing issues at an early stage will not only benefit the retiring population, but the nation as a whole. The near future can be an exciting place to be the benefits that the aging baby boomers will demand can also make everyone’s life better. They will affect all aspects of life; politics, businesses and social life will change to conform to the aging baby boomers’ needs. So get ready, The baby boomers are coming.
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