Last summer something interesting occurred to me. In 2010, a demographic symmetry arrives.
Americans born between 1946 and 1964—the birth years sociologists have traditionally used to delineate the Baby Boomer Generation—range in age, youngest to oldest, from 46 to 64. The demographic contrivance of 1946 to 1964 becomes the aging reality of 46 to 64.
Millions of Boomers may be asking themselves a rhetorical question Beatle Paul McCartney first intoned in his 1967 hit, When I’m Sixty-Four.
Will you still need me?
Families and friends will still need their 64-year-old Boomers. And, undoubtedly, businesses will still need all their Boomer customers—even if many businesses avoid targeting aging markets.
Demographic and economic exigencies cannot be ignored. Boomers represent 26% of the entire U.S. population, with one in three American adults being Boomers. This generation of Americans has had a long history of being the nation’s dominant consumer segment. Boomers today contribute about 40% of all consumer-spending, and the generation controls roughly 70% of the nation’s assets. That’s an unassailable business case.
But can a generation be a business target?
Diverse and distributed as they may be, Boomers are bound together by a compelling sense of their generational reference group.
Steve Gillon, Ph.D., author of Boomer Nation and a nationally acclaimed academic and historian, observed that not all generations possess a common identity that can be so widely understood and shared:
While past generations have shared common experiences, they developed only a loose sense of generational identity. Largely because of their size and the emergence of mass media, especially television, Boomers are the first generation to have a defined sense of themselves as a single entity.
Dominant demographics and being the first generation raised with broadcast television gave Boomers a layered and complex sense of identity, the shared values of which continue to propel them into the future. I believe that a Boomer-sense-of-collective-self will inspire future marketing dimensions—and business opportunities.
The journey began for each of 78 million individuals sometime between 1946 and 1964. The long strange trip continues in 2010 as each celebrates a birthday ranging from 46 to 64.
A dynamic generation of men and women is aging—and changing through aging—and changing aging.
Indeed, the times they are a-changin’.