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Who knew we’d be such grumpy (but NOT old!) men and women?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
posted by Douglas Keene

You probably intuited this already but age is simply not settling well on our largest generation. From the exuberance of youth (“don’t trust anyone over 30”) to the contemplation of approaching 65—Boomers feel anxious about their futures. They are afraid they will outlive Medicare.  But that isn’t all that is vexing the Boomers. A recent report published by the Pew Organization shows that Boomers are, in general, more downbeat than other age groups about the future of the nation as well as the anticipated trajectory of their own lives.

Compare the generational numbers for agreement with the following perspective:

“I am dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today”

Silent and Greatest Generations (65 and older): 76%
Boomers: 80%
Generation X (ages 30 to 45): 69%
Millennials (ages 18 to 29): 60%

We Boomers are simply glum. More glum—it should be pointed out—than our own parents.

We are the new ‘grumpy old men and women’. We have become ‘the man’ (sic). We are more likely to say we have been hurt financially by the current recession and more likely to say we are cutting back. We are less religious than our parents and more religious than our children. We still see ourselves as young with the average Boomer saying “old age begins at 72” but we have lost our optimism for the future.

One of our (Boomer) clients had a great line in a mock trial from this summer: “What has become of our country?” It resonated with the mock jurors. It would likely resonate with Boomers. And it is likely what our parents (the Silents and the Greatest Generation) thought when we were young adults.

So, what’s the point? The point is that we have to take a step back and see what is happening to our country as part of a natural process. Time passes. New generations emerge. Older generations step back. We Boomers do not like to step back. And while (we sure think) it isn’t yet time for us to step back completely—it is time for us to stop taking hammers to the hands of those attempting to climb the ladder behind us.

We’ve written about Millennials (aka Gen Y) extensively. (See our papers on generational characteristics and on effective management strategies for Millennial/Gen Y employees.)  We do not pretend to understand them entirely. And there are certainly things to be concerned about in the country and in our financial futures. But spreading gloom and doom around us is not an effective way to live happily. Discouraging others from working hard and achieving simply because they are young is not a way to keep Medicare (or some form of health coverage) solvent. We were mentored as young people. And those mentors often shook their heads. It’s time for us to step up. Boomers as mentors. Not as grumpy old men and women.

D’Vera Cohn, & Paul Taylor (2010). Baby Boomers Approach 65 – Glumly. Pew Research Center

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