Baby Boomers seek to make the world a better place

Issue date: 01 March 2016

In her new book, Naomi Woodspring, a Research Fellow at the University of the West of England, Bristol, uncovers a very different picture of the Baby Boomers generation, typically seen as selfish, affluent and globalizing. She reveals a deep intent to make the world a better place in this 'last phase' of their lives.

For many of the post-war generation, gone is the desire for 'fun, fun, fun' bucket lists. Instead, Dr Woodspring's book shows a deep concern for the generations coming after them. This plays out in new ways: civic engagement, socially responsible business models, conscious grandparenting and more.

The Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bomb, Earthrise, the Pill - decoupling of sex and procreation, advances in technology, the education and healthcare system, and targeted advertising to the new marketing group - teenagers - were all influential events in the Baby Boomers' childhood and coming of age.

In turn, the liberation movements, the expression of beliefs and values through music, and the reshaping of notions of relationships were the response to what the Baby Boomers inherited. This heady mix has been an influence in their lives and is much in evidence in their ideas about ageing.

Dr Woodspring says, “There is a distinct feeling that comes with being one of a post-war generation. Almost everyone I spoke to felt that they were inventing what it felt like to be old; they had a sense of doing it differently from previous generations. This generation takes great pleasure in physical activity – for example enjoying exercising, dancing and walking. There is a sense of care of the body as a right, not a privilege, which comes from changes during their lifetimes.

“Most of the people I interviewed saw this phase as the last part of their lives and wanted to use it to make a difference, to leave a dynamic legacy for those coming after them. Regardless of ethnicity, politics, gender or social class, people discussed the importance of doing something of, what they considered, value, in this last phase of their lives. Interviewees worry about the many issues the next generation is facing from climate change to the austerity to the cost of an education. The Pill, the Bomb and the cold war, were just two of the 'big events' that have had a lasting influence on the lives of baby boomers. How will the constant drumbeat of climate change impact and shape the lives of the next generation?”

This is not the so-called Peter Pan generation - much to the contrary, they look at ageing with a certain equanimity. Baby Boomers are determined to remain as healthy and productive, as possible, through those years.

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