While millennials are a hot topic as they rise to the peak of their purchasing power and begin to climb the corporate ladder, it’s a mistake to underestimate the importance the boomer generation will continue to play in the future.
Boomers represent a huge cohort of the aging population today: there are 9.6 million boomers in Canada. But unlike the “silent generation” before them, they don’t see themselves as senior citizens. Like the new face of L’Oreal – boomer Helen Mirren – says, “I call it growing up, not growing old.” Trend Hunter’s research shows boomers are living longer and on their own terms with their own sense of style, values and goals.
We’re seeing this celebration of boomers by boomers in fashion, art, marketing and entertainment. Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, a documentary filmmaker and portrait photographer, is one example. He recently launched a series of photos called “The Boomer List” that featured 19 individuals representing each year of the boomer generation, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (pictured right), fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, and environmentalist Erin Brockovich. The exhibit included all sorts of paraphernalia from generation Baby Boom, media from the era, a short film and a comment station where attendees could share memories
Further speaking to the boomer experience, Cowra, Australia holds an annual Baby Boomers Music Festival. Unlike Coachella, hip hop and DJs are instead replaced with electric guitars, fully loaded drum kits and a strong sense of nostalgia. Music festivals like Woodstock played a key role in creating a community feeling among this group in such politically turbulent and emotionally charged times.
ZoomerShow is a Canadian-based event occurring in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver also aimed at the 45+ set. The event also focuses on live music from the era, but it also hosts workshops and lectures on a wide range of boomer-centric topics like retirement, health and financial investments.
The fact is, boomers are still struggling to define their life post-retirement, and these meet ups and new communities are one way they can cope with health challenges, retirement and even starting new relationships. They’re defining a whole new life stage that has yet to be clearly labeled. This is very similar to the early 1940s when the word “teenager” was first coined as a new breed of young, experimental and socially-minded people emerged.
Today, boomers are setting the norm for younger generations of having a “second act” in their lives and starting “encore careers” – new careers that are driven by the purpose and passion of would-be retirees. There are even organizations like Encore.org dedicated to “leveraging the skills and talents of experienced adults to improve communities and the world.”
It is clear the boomer generation is anything but silent. This is a generation that drove sexual, racial, gender, political and musical revolutions that defined an era and heavily influenced the generations that followed. As this generation transitions into grandparents, don’t expect them to be homebodies who knit or playing bingo on a Saturday night. This would be a big mistake. The boomer generation is more likely to be out at a concert or working a cool new job, being just as fiercely independent, youthful and hard-working as they’ve always been. After all, they came in with a boom, so they might as well go out with a bang.
Shelby Walsh is president at Toronto-based Trend Hunter, an online trend community and research company.