Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What's Age Got To Do With It? - Part I

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know there is no "one size fits all" approach today to our older population. Even what to call them is no longer one label--senior, older adult, boomer, elder, 50+, 55+, 60+, 65+, and so on (and on, and on...)  Clearly, today's older adult population is not one homeogeneous cohort, but has distinct groups within it. 

Mature Market Institute (MMI) is MetLife’s research organization and is recognized as a leader on the issues of aging and longevity.  Well MMI has put together Generational Profiles giving us great information and insight into each group. Each Generational Profile shows a timeline of cultural and social influences on that generation, as well as their racial & ethnic composition, and statistics about health & longevity, work, family, housing, finances.

The 65+ group represents 13% of the today's total population.
Therange of experience spans the “oldest-old” who were directly influenced by the Great Depression and the introduction of Social Security, followed by those in the middle—the “Greatest Generation”—who lived through World War II and who came home to start families which resulted in the Baby Boom—to the “youngest-old,” the “Silent Generation,” characterized by some as the “Lucky Few” because of the relatively small and financially secure generation they represent.
And even Baby Boomers are not one, homegenous group.  Older Boomers, born between 1946 and 1951, represent only about 7% of the total population.
Being on the cusp of the age wave, they will put increasing pressure on government programs, including Social Security and Medicare, and will be an influence on how public programs and services are delivered. At the same time, many will want to be involved in civic engagement activities just as they did in their youth, contributing their time and talent to making their communities and the world a better place. With their youth culture roots still intact, these Boomers may be getting older, but will undoubtedly claim that they are getting better as well.
While Middle Boomers, born between 1952 and 1958, are 10% of the total population.
While many of them were old enough to have participated in the social change of the 1960s, many Middle Boomers were also just young enough to have watched from the sidelines. The economic and social world they entered as adults in their twenties was quite different than that of their slightly older siblings, providing them with a world view less driven by exuberance and more by a new sense of an emerging, more sober reality.
Then there are the Younger Boomers, born between 1959 and 1964, who are a whopping 34% of the population.  This group is just entering their 50s now. Hmm..but are they really "Boomers" in their identity?
Younger Boomers also found themselves associated with a Boomer identity and character more appropriate to their slightly older Middle and Older Boomer siblings than  themselves. This may account for the fact that nearly half (48%) of 45-year-olds reject the term “Baby Boomers” to describe themselves, while 35% prefer to be identified with “Generation X” rather than their demographically correct affiliation. While clearly part of the Boomers demographically, Younger Boomers’ self perception puts them in a different part of the generational spectrum.
Generational Profiles are also given for Gen X, born between 1965 and 1976, making up 16% of the population (who are, believe it or not, turning 45 this year) and Gen Y, 25% of our population, born between 1977 and 1984. Those who are under 15 haven't yet acquired a generational label. We'll just have to wait and see what comes after "X" and "Y"!

When you are working on your programming planning, your marketing, your outreach efforts, finding your target audience, you may find that these Generational Profiles come in handy.  They may not provide all the answers, but at least they explain all the confusion!

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Thanks! Mary Catherine Dabrowski