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  Getting Better not Older" Boomers Redefine Middle Age Potpourri

Canadian FundRaiserGeneration XMY NICHOLS’ WORTH by Judith Nichols

The oldest boomers, born in 1946, began to turn 60 on January 1, 2006. Baby boomers are turning 50 at an astonishing rate of one every 7 to 10 seconds. That's more than 12,000 each day and over 4 million a year for each of the next 18 years! With baby boomers turning age 50 at the rate of more than 10,000 a day (New York Times, October 28, 2005) the 50 and over segment of the population is growing rapidly and becoming better educated and more affluent with each passing day.

In the 85 metro markets surveyed regularly by The Media Audit http://www.themediaaudit.com/50Plus.htm), the age 50 plus group has grown in the past five years from 41 million to 47 million and now represents 36.4% of the aggregate population of 128 million adults. While their numbers were increasing during the past five years, they were also undergoing lifestyle changes that have significant bearing on their buying habits.

In 1998 approximately 75% of the 50+ folks had no children at home. Today, 80% have no children at home. Since 1998, one-person households have increased from 20% to 27.1% percent and two-person households increased from 45.9% to 49.1%. And thanks to the aging of the baby boomers, there are more college graduates among the 50+ group than there has ever been. In l998, 31.6% had one or more college degrees. In the last survey it was 33.9%.

As a demographic group, boomers have an impossibly sunny outlook when it comes to aging, notes Cheryl Swanson in "Marketing to Boomers? Keep These Five Keystones in Mind", Chief Marketer, February 26 2006 (http://chiefmarketer.com/marketing_to_boomers_02262006/). They don’t obsess about dying. Nor, by and large, do they compulsively focus on their skin or indulge in extravagant bodywork. Boomers simply want to live full lives unhindered by aging. Ultimately they don’t feel old; they feel ready to live life to the max. Here are the keystones of their philosophy--and what those keystones mean to you as a marketer:

1. Enjoy—but make smarter choices.
Despite confronting health issues such as heart attacks and diabetes, boomers aren’t willing to give up all their pleasurable habits. Instead, they seek moderation in their lives. Rather than giving up a favorite food, they might switch to a low-fat version. Or if they love steak, they’ll settle for a smaller portion.

2. Prioritize family ties.
Now that they have more time on their hands, boomers cherish simple pleasures such as playing with their grandchildren. As their views of life’s essentials evolve, they see time with loved ones as more precious than ever. And those loved ones include pets; boomers treat their pets like members of the family.

3. Explore a holistic attitude toward health.
Boomers are willing to experiment with natural medicine; supplements and vitamins are popular remedies for the everyday aches and pains they are beginning to experience as well as for chronic conditions such as high cholesterol. Taking control over their health is a resounding theme. From choosing organic products to eating fresh foods, boomers do more than just see their doctor regularly.

4. Carve out time for self-improvement.
While boomers may not obsess over their appearance, many make exercise a routine part of their lifestyle. From gardening to walking to chasing grandkids, boomers like to be active. They also love to experiment by trying a new hobby and going back to school.

5. Give back to the community.
Now that they finally have some time to move through life at a more leisurely pace, boomers feel compelled to devote more energy to charities and to volunteer work rather than just writing checks. It feeds [satisfies??
SURE] their desire for spiritual fulfillment and makes them feel even more connected to the community at large.

The Merrill Lynch New Retirement Survey: A Perspective from the Baby Boomer Generation, February 2005 reveals that a majority of baby boomers think they will work during retirement, but they won't necessarily be doing it for the money. When asked why, here's what they said:

To stay mentally active: 67 percent*

To keep physically active: 57 percent

To be connected with others: 48 percent

For the health insurance: 45 percent

For new challenges: 37 percent

For the money: 37 percent

For a sense of identity: 36 percent

* Percent who answered "very important."

Three more predictions for the baby boomers in old age from Cheryl Russell, editorial director, New Strategist Publications and author of 100 Predictions for the Baby Boom writing in the American Consumers Newsletter, January 10, 2006:

1. Boomers will be more alike than ever before. As boomers enter their sixties and seventies, all 78 million will share one life stage. Because of the lengthy 19-year span of the generation, it has never before been so unified. In the past, the generation straddled life stages: toddlers to teens, college students to mid-career executives, parents to empty-nesters. As boomers enter their sixties, the similarities will begin to outweigh the differences. Their labour force status will be retired. Their economic status will be reduced. Their family status will be empty-nester. Their health status will be declining.

2. Boomers will be more powerful than ever before. Because of their shared wants and needs, they will speak with one voice. United in life stage, they will be a potent force in the voting booth. As they give up the rat race, cooperation will replace competition. The angry din of political polarization will diminish. Moderate voices will be heard. For boomers, the top issues will be the well being of younger generations (children and grandchildren), health care, and Social Security. To the surprise of many, Social Security will be their primary source of income.

3. Boomers will rediscover their social conscience. As they ponder their legacy, boomers will abandon the "all about me" ethic. As they watch their children and grandchildren struggle with many of the same issues they faced, they will roll up their sleeves to help. By reaching out, they will become friendlier, more tolerant and generous, more curious and open, more likely to empathize with the underdog and less likely to side with the top dog. They may even regain their sense of humor.

The relative health, wealth and skill of the baby boomers means nothing less than the emergence of a new stage of life beyond middle age.

Canadian FundRaiser
Canadian FundRaiserSince 1991, the Canadian FundRaiser™ newsletter has been updating nonprofit managers twice-monthly on news, trends, tips and analysis of developments in the fields of fundraising and nonprofit management.

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