Seven Dirty Words to Never Link to Baby Boomers
By Chuck Underwood
They are the Forever-Young Generation. How did that happen?
They came of age during perhaps the greatest time in American history to be a kid: the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. As their generation was molding unique and lifelong core values, their nation was taking on its biggest problems and solving them. Finding cures to disease, confronting and erasing its own unfair prejudices, landing men on the moon. Neighborhoods were safe, families were strong, jobs for Dad were secure, commercial radio and television were upbeat and clean-talking. Neighbors helped neighbors. As the opening sequence of the TV sitcom The Wonder Years accurately describes it, it was “a golden age for kids”. And beyond their control, they are the generation that would enjoy the remarkably good fortune to arrive on the planet just then. The Baby Boomers. When they passed through their formative years, anything seemed possible in this magnificent country called America. Norman Rockwell was illustrating, and idealizing, day-to-day American life in terms of two constant themes – love and hope - on the covers of Saturday Evening Post. And it is that sense of love and hope, burned forever into their brains, that will keep Boomers a Forever-Young Generation. Oh, they know they’ll “age” because aging is unavoidable, but they’ll never “grow old”. Boomers have decided growing old is an option, and they’ve pretty much decided against it. They’ll always be peeking around that next corner in life with excitement and anticipation and optimism. For Boomers, life is always about tomorrow. With this generation, never say never. And that explains why marketers who try to lure Boomers with their advertising messages now recognize the Seven Dirty Words To Never Link To Boomers: 1.Senior Citizen: A noble label for mom and dad, but not for Boomers. 2. Retiree: Boomers will never retire. This generation defines itself by its work, by its contribution. They might retire from career-number-one but promptly begin career-number-two, perhaps in volunteerism or starting their own business or going back to school to learn a new trade. 3. Aging: Ohmygosh, donnnnnnnnnn’t!! 4. Golden Years: Ditto! 5. Silver Years: Good rule of thumb? No references to any precious metals. 6. Mature: Never insult Boomers by calling them mature. Regardless the wrinkles on the outside, they will always be Mouseketeers on the inside. 7. Prime Time: To describe their future as the “prime time” of their lives is to discount their past. Boomers feel they’ve been in Prime Time every second of their lives, squeezing each day for all of its satisfactions. This is the generation that has re-written that good ol’ “book of life” just about every day of their lives. They have done so many things so differently from the ways they had always been done before. And for those other generations who had assumed – or at least hoped! – that those crazy Boomers would one day slow down, grow a bit more conservative, and go gently into their next passage? Guess again. Example: Boomer mothers are forming their own rock-and-roll bands around the country and scheduling Saturday night gigs around their mommy and career schedules. Among the names of their bands: from Detroit, The Mydols; from New York City, Housewives On Prozac; and only from our sisters out in wonderfully wacky California would we get a Boomer-mother band that chooses to call itself The Lactators. Boomers will continue to re-write that book of life, and at every future age marker they will drastically alter the consumer model, career model, and lifestyle model from what they have always been before. All because of the hope and love that surrounded the formative years that would mold them for life. Forever young. (Chuck Underwood, founder and president of generational consulting firm The Generational Imperative, is the author of the book The Generational Imperative: Understanding Generational Differences In The Workplace, Marketplace, And Living Room. His company’s website is www.genimperative.com.)