Are We Boomers Still Relevant?

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Editor’s note: When Amy Tobin wrote this post, Have Boomers Lost their Voice? it sparked a great deal of discussion from our Boomer friends who had much to say on this topic. Sherree Worrell, one of our regular panellists on the Boomer Think Tank, was frustrated and very vocal as this topic had a profound impact from her experiences. We invited Sherree to share her views on this topic. It’s clear from what you’ll read that it provides a clear and well-articulated response to what the other generations and the marketing community have, themselves, stereotyped about Boomers. The next episode of Boomer Think Tank, hosted by Samantha Estoesta, will cover this very topic. Please stay tuned. ~Hessie Jones

Do Baby Boomers (Boomers) still have a voice?

I’ve done quite a bit of research and what I found says not really. In the general scheme of things, we’re irrelevant. Everyone (Millennials in particular) is mad at us, and wishes we would go away (or “just die off already.” I actually read an article with this title in a national publication).

The recession was the final nail that made us irrelevant. Every conversation since 2008 that revolves around jobs, marketing, education, advertising, etc., has focused more on Millennials. Boomers have been pushed aside and are now required to shoulder the blame for every little thing that has gone wrong (before, and) since.

Granted, some of the things that have gone wrong are absolutely due to the Boomer generation. As an example, look at those in government who are not sitting in the Executive Branch. We have a group of politicians – most of whom are boomers, making policy that stinks (my apologies if this offends anyone). Heck, I hate what they’re doing and I’m a Boomer. However, I believe this has more to do with a specific party than actual age. Regardless, most are Boomers.

In the 60s and 70s, we led the way in civil and women’s rights, and environmental causes. Without Boomers, there would be no EPA, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, or the Endangered Species Act.

Marketing and Advertising have forgotten about us

Boomers currently make up the largest generation with buying power, yet the Marketing and Advertising Industry literally reduced their budgets originally geared to Boomers, to market to Millennials. We just don’t matter anymore — to anyone.

I think part of the problem for the Marketing & Advertising industry, and for others, is the misconception that we are not tech savvy. While that might be a truer statement for the older Boomers, it is not true for the mid-to-late Boomers. If it weren’t for the Boomers, there would be no digital age. Innovation is not the sole property of GenXers or Millennials, but we’re treated as if we don’t have a brain or don’t understand how to use any new technological device or application that is sold or used.

Not all Boomers are created equal

Did you know there are actually two sets of Boomers — those born between 1945-1954 and those born 1955-1965? The later Boomers are the “Jones generation” of the group. The earlier Boomers are the ones who experienced the rush of wealth after the war. They have the pensions, more wealth, and if needed, the ability to collect social security.

Those of us in the later group had huge expectations placed on us while growing up in the ’60s (we had the “Keeping -up-with-the-Jones’” syndrome thrust upon us). What we ended up experiencing in the ’70s and ’80s were high inflation rates, an oil embargo, high unemployment rates and more. To be honest, we did not enjoy the same prosperity as the earlier Boomers, although we did have it better than many do now. Sadly, many mid-to-late Boomers do not have pensions and in many cases, do not have enough with which to retire, which is quite different than those from the earlier Boomer timeframe. I am not making excuses for any of the Boomers – it’s just a fact of history.

Boomers: the unintentional entrepreneurs

Finally, I am an unintentional business owner, as are thousands of other Boomers that were aged out of the job market between 2008-2011. I enjoyed working for small companies and I have a great resume. Yet, when the recession hit, my position was eliminated due to a merger, and I was too old to do the exact same thing before the bottom fell out.

Literally overnight, thousands of us were unemployable as much younger, less experienced people that just graduated college began to replace us. I don’t blame the younger job seekers; we became undesirables and cost cutting was the name of the game. We (Boomers and Millennials) were (and still are in some cases) competing for the same jobs, and the Boomers are striking out. Many Boomers never recovered from that, and in order to survive, many of us had to become business owners, in a recession, in a hurry. Thankfully, some of us are still in business.

It makes me sad because the mid-to-late Boomers still have a lot to give to society in terms of buying power, business and leadership, social awareness, and more. However, no one is interested.

Believe it or not, Boomers and Millennials actually have a lot in common. We’re in the same boat. We’re all struggling towards the same goals: employment, decent wages, a place to live, and the ability to have a decent life, regardless of our age. We should be helping one another not hoping one generation would “die already.”


Image source: takver

3 thoughts on “Are We Boomers Still Relevant?

  1. Steve Dodd says:

    I love this! Although, I’m not sure I agree with the concept that “no one is interested”. But I totally agree with your comment that part of the problem (if not most of it) is the Marketing and Advertising industry because it always gravitates towards “the next perceived big thing”. Certainly emerging generations (let’s not call them Millennials – I hate that stereotype) are always going to capture interest. They are young, vibrant, exciting, intelligent and have very different perspectives (just like we were at that age). We all learn a great deal from them and they also learn a great deal from us. Marketing “attitude” is just hype, rarely reality. If you think back to when we were “young”, were we not “treated” the same way? And, when the current Millennial generation (sorry but had to use it) become the “old guard” in 20-30 years, they’ll be experiencing exactly what Boomers are experiencing now.

    If we can learn anything from this new technology that has enabled more visibility in to markets and human attitude than we’ve ever had before (and just the beginnings of what we’ll experience in the future), it’s the concept of “cradle to grave”. The understanding of the various “states” of each individualized market in that cycle should be the core of our focus, not just the next big thing. If all we focus on is the “next big thing” then we’ll never learn from history and the repetitive cycle will just continue. Marketing and advertising gravitates towards the “next big thing” ergo, as you said, it is the problem.

    Again, without us Boomers, there would be no internet! We created the dam thing and most of us (although unknowingly at the time) were using it and dreaming about its future before Millennials were out of grade school! Dialing forward 25 years, the children of the Millennials will be capitalizing on what their parents have evolved and having the same conversations about them as we are seeing now (and as our parents saw from us). Except, what they will experience will be worse as they are going to live 10+ years longer than we Boomers will.

    All I can hope for is that because of this amazing wealth of understanding we now have at our disposal, we will learn from (and capitalize on) this basic fundamental. And, you are absolutely right “We should be helping one another not hoping one generation would “die already.” I would only argue that we do (help each other that is) , just some don’t want to admit it.

    • Hessie Jones says:

      I empathize with this post Sherree. Steve, everything you’ve said is absolutely right: The shiny new object is as relevant as dictated by market demand, then when the time in the spotlight has passed its intended stay then it gets pushed aside.

      Just an aside: GenXers, in this equation, have been missed in this post. Again, because ad industry and publications never saw our generation as influential enough or had strength in buying power, we became absent from conversation.

      I digress because what’s important here is to say that Media has been the vessel to amplify these stereotypes, misunderstandings and has instigated a divide among generations that probably should NOT have occurred. All this attention paid to Millennials (whether positive or negative) has created a bigger gap between generations that perpetuates the anger of past and continues to group everyone (regardless of circumstance) into one bucket. That’s exactly what has happened to Boomers.

      I think it’s time that YOU all continue to voice your own opinions. We have the platforms, you still have the numbers. So I encourage to to speak your mind and let your voice be heard. ARCOMPANY can be that vessel.

  2. Steve Dodd says:

    It was refreshing to see this blog show up in my twitter stream again as it made me think more about this topic. There is no question the new generation (aka millennials, this time around) I are far more technically adept and lack the sense of ‘fear’ of the unknown that older folks have. But, make no mistake about it, this has been the cycle of society for thousands of years. The only thing that’s changing is the pace of change itself. We also held our parents irrelevant when we were their age. That’s just ‘youth’ talking.

    And now I’m going to tell you something very personal. My father (a former chartered accountant and investment advisor) just passed away. After his death, while unraveling his estate, I discovered things that made me wish I’d paid more attention to his genius and learned more from his experiences rather than discarding his generation as irrelevant.

    One day, this Millennial generation is going to experience this same ‘discovery’ and like me, too late. Us Boomers can offer a lot to the Millennial generation if they’d only pay attention before it’s too late. However, we Boomers owe it to them to be patient and let them make the mistakes they are going to make (just like we did) but stay involved so we can help them through it.

    Are we irrelevant? Yes we are. But only because this is a natural evolution. However, we owe it to the next generation to stay relevant based on own merit and not expect them (just like we didn’t) to keep us relevant. That’s not their job, it’s ours!

    Are we irrelevant, yes! And it’s as much our fault as anyone’s. They blame us, we blame them and the age old cycle continues. So, can we break the cycle and do something about it? Maybe we should start doing as we say, not as we do.

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