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Personal Outlook

by Published On: Mar 25, 2011

Gerontologists and demographers have long anticipated Jan. 1, 2011 as the date when the oldest members of the large baby boom generation would begin turning 65. Now that the magic date has arrived, researchers continue to wonder just how baby boomers will adapt to the aging experience. Their research suggests that the children of the 1960s could bring some hefty emotional baggage – and some strong attitudes – to their later years.

High Rates of Dissatisfaction 

The baby boom generation could be considerably more downcast than its predecessors as it enters old age. The majority of boomers (80%) say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today. A fifth (21%) seems especially disappointed that their own standard of living is lower than the standard of living their parents enjoyed at mid-life. [1]  

 

Some researchers suggest that these economic pressures may be at the root of rising baby boomer suicide rates, which have increased by two percent a year for men and more than three percent of year for women since 1999. Significantly, the suicide rate jumped a dramatic 30 percent between 2000 and 20005 for men and women who were 50-59 years old and had no college degree. While these increases may be connected to the current economic recession, boomers’ higher rates of depression during their teen years, their service in Vietnam and their relatively high rates of drug use could continue to put them at risk for suicide. [2] [3] [4]

 

Younger boomers may be more dissatisfied with their lives than older boomers. A 2010 AARP survey found that the majority of older boomers are optimistic about the next five years (85%) and satisfied with the way their lives are going (78%). [5] Conversely, other studies suggest that younger boomers are less likely to believe that the world is full of opportunity [6] and more likely to be lonely than any other age group. [7]  

 

On the bright side, the aging process might help baby boomers rediscover their inner happiness. Two 2010 studies suggest that people grow significantly happier and more emotionally stable as they get older, after experiencing dips in happiness during middle age. [8] [9]  

 

General Attitudes 

It’s impossible to attribute universal traits to a generation consisting of 79 million people. But researchers have identified some characteristics that they believe baby boomers share. For example, Americans born between 1946 and 1964 don’t generally view themselves as being old. The typical boomer believes old age doesn’t start until age 72 and two thirds (61%) of boomers feel nine years younger than their chronological age. [1]

Boomers don’t appear to be particularly religious. Less than half (43%) say they are a “strong” member of their religion  and only four in 10 say they attend religious services at least once a week. Thirteen percent say they have no religious affiliation. [1]

On the political spectrum, boomers appear to be more conservative than younger adults and more liberal than older adults. More than two-thirds oppose eliminating the tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages (68%) and raising the qualifying age for full Social Security benefits (63%). [1] 

  

Finally, baby boomers haven’t entirely abandoned the promiscuity and recklessness that characterized their youth. Twenty-three percent of boomer men and 13 percent of boomer women report having casual sex. However, only 25 percent of single people over age 50 with new or multiple sex partners report using a condom. [10]  

Read More About It 

 

[1] “Baby Boomers Approach 65 – Glumly.” 2010. Social and Demographic Trends. Pew Research Center, Dec. 20. 

 

[2] “The New Mid-Life Crisis?” 2010. The SundayPaper, Oct. 31. 

 

[3] “Are Unrealistic Life Expectations to Blame for Baby Boomer Suicides?” 2010. Time, Oct. 5.

 

[4] “In Midlife, Boomers Are Happy – and Suicidal.” 2010. The New York Times, June 13. 

 

[5] “Leading Edge of U.S. Baby Boomers Content-Survey.” 2010. Reuters, Dec. 22.  

 

[6] Boomer Bookends: Insights into the Oldest and Youngest Boomers. 2009. MetLife Mature Market Institute. 

  

[7] Loneliness Among Older Adults: A National Survey of Adults 45+. 2010. AARP. 

 

[8] “Happiness May Come With Age, Study Says. 2010”. The New York Times, May 31. 

 

[9] “Stanford Study Shows Getting Older Leads To Emotional Stability, Happiness.” 2010. Stanford University News, Oct. 27.

 

[10] “Grown-Up, but Still Irresponsible.” 2010. The New York Times , Oct. 10. 

 



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