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College of Human Ecology

K-State Specialist: "Baby boomers will change attitudes about aging..."

Monday, January 29, 2007

MANHATTAN, Kan. - With the first of the baby boomers turning 61, attitudes about aging are likely to change, said Deb Sellers, Kansas State University Research and Extension specialist on adult development and aging.

Baby boomers are typically defined as those born from 1946 to 1964, she said. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, in the United States, boomers number 76 million and account for slightly more than one-fourth of the nation´s population.

The numbers matter, Sellers said, because such a large group will have the power to set new standards - or expectations - for aging, and drive the development of new products and services for their age group.

Boomers´ preoccupation with their own interests has defined them as the "me generation", but not all boomers are alike, Sellers said.

Those born from 1946 through 1950 - 23 percent of boomers - lead the generation; those born in the years 1951 through 1959 - 49 percent - make up what is called the core group of the generation, and those born in the period from 1960 through 1964 - 28 percent - are considered trailers.

"Each group is somewhat defined by their life experiences," Sellers said. Lead boomers are typically familiar with the civil and equal rights movements and John F. Kennedy. Trailers will be more likely to reference advances in technology and Ronald Reagan.

Baby boomers expect comfort, convenience - and fun, she said. As a whole, the generation is considered the wealthiest to date, and with lifestyle and health important, an anti-aging attitude is fairly common.

From their perspective, the term `senior´ describes their parents, and not themselves, Sellers said. According to a report prepared for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 63 percent feel younger than their age, Sellers said.

With average life expectancy lengthening and the gap in life expectancy for men and women narrowing, she said that baby boomers´ average life expectancy is currently estimated at 83 years.

Boomers are typically well-educated, with respect for knowledge and technology.

And, while many may lack respect for authority and can be skeptical of the government, they often are passionate about personal causes and willing to contribute their time, energy and expertise on behalf of those causes, Sellers said.

According to that same survey, almost 80 percent of baby boomers expect to work after they retire, Sellers said. While the loss of their skills will affect business, many are expected to choose a second, and, perhaps more fulfilling, career. More than half (51 percent of those surveyed) reported that they will engage in volunteer work.

"Don´t expect them to stuff envelopes, though," she said. Boomers will likely develop marketing plans for volunteer agencies or choose a service project, such as helping to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

According to a Pew Research Center Report, 38 percent of baby boomers have been divorced, Sellers said. Most say they are satisfied with family life and 35 percent have either provided -- or are providing -- care for an aging parent. Some also are grandparents who care for their grandchildren.

With aging a process, how will baby boomers with an anti-aging attitude fare? And, how will they change attitudes about aging?

"It´s too soon to tell," Sellers said. "Specialists on aging and adult development are expected to study baby boomers as they embrace aging and their older selves."

More information on aging is available by contacting a county or district K-State Research and Extension office or check Extension´s Web site: www.oznet.ksu.edu.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson
K-State Research and Extension

For more information:
Deb Sellers is at 785-532-5773 or dsellers@ksu.edu

This article was posted on Monday, January 29, 2007, and is filed under College News, Family Studies & Human Services.