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5 False Stereotypes About Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers lead more active, more plugged-in lives than they're often given credit for. See more healthy aging pictures.
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Millennials have been coddled, Gen Y'ers won't wear suits, Gen X'ers are cynical and Baby Boomers -- those folks can barely operate a cell phone.

Generational stereotypes are nothing new. They can be comforting, a way to relate to people of a different age -- without going to the trouble of getting to know them. And so they can also be downright wrong. Stereotypes about the Boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964, are no exception.

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As the "never trust anyone over 30" crowd starts turning 65, they're faced with burgeoning stereotypes about who they are, what they do, how they think and what they want. Here, five common ones about Baby Boomers that typically prove false, beginning with one that plagues most of the older crowd: They don't care about the younger crowd.

It's a common belief among the young that older members of society disregard concerns for the future. Whether that's ever been true is up for debate. But in the case of the Baby Boomers, this belief is generally unfounded.

Baby Boomers, having come of age in one of the most politically and socially turbulent times in modern history, tend to be concerned with, and often active in, matters of future wellness like education and job training, health care reform and political change. Since many have decades left to live, they tend to be quite invested in the future, perhaps more so than previous generations.

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And speaking of the future, those Boomers are just itching to retire, right?

The generations past who left (or were "invited" to leave) the work force when they reached official retirement age are just that: of the past.

Baby Boomers tend not to want to retire, at least not when they reach 60, and at least not completely -- as long as they have a choice. The desire to keep working is driven in part by necessity, since retirement savings are not what they were before the economic downturn at the start of the 21st century. But it's also about maintaining relevance and mental acuity -- the characteristic Baby Boomer desire to "stay young." Keeping a foot in the work world means keeping a foot in productivity and modernity, as opposed to just "growing old."

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But, Boomers are just "growing old," right?

For many Boomers, activity is practically second nature.
For many Boomers, activity is practically second nature.
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The picture is so common: A 70-year-old in an easy chair, remote in hand, afghan over his knees, perhaps with a cup of weak tea within easy reach.

The picture simply doesn't apply, at all, to the majority of Boomers. This generation may, for purely physical reasons, slow down, but they don't stop. They barely idle. Many exercise daily and participate in outdoor activities like hiking and cycling. They tend to travel, both domestically and abroad, and they're concerned with improving and/or maintaining their health through diet and exercise. Baby Boomers have been known to start up yoga or vegetarianism because their friend or their doctor sings the praises of a particular "alternative" lifestyle. This is not a group of people interested in leading sedentary, static lives.

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But then, a Baby Boomer doesn't really learn new tricks, right?

Sure, the older you get, the more you tend to stick with what you know. After all, people who've been around 65 or 70 years have had a long time to figure out what does and does not work for them.

But compared to previous generations, Baby Boomers are extremely open to change, progress and just generally trying new things. Not only do a majority of Boomers (80 percent, according to a Preferred Hotel Group study) want to visit a place they've never been, but they also tend to continue participating in career-training activities, try out new lifestyle habits like health food or a new form of exercise, and join volunteer or study groups after leaving their jobs [source: Pawlowski].

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And then, the big one -- new technology. Baby Boomers shy away from it, right?

The generation that grew up with TV or started work with personal computers isn't about let something as simple as online bill pay pass them by.
The generation that grew up with TV or started work with personal computers isn't about let something as simple as online bill pay pass them by.
BananaStock/Thinkstock

It's true that in the past, people over 60 tended to stop adopting new technologies. For the Baby Boom generation, however, the stereotype simply doesn't hold.

After all, these are the people who grew up with the sudden explosion of telecommunications, and they saw the advent of the personal computer in their early adulthood. The Baby Boomers adopted these new technologies with zeal and laid the groundwork for a voracious tech market. That hunger doesn't stop just because they hit the big 6-0.

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While Boomers may be slower to adopt a new technology than 18-year-olds, they're not afraid of the newest smartphone, online bill-paying option or the weekly streaming videos of the grandkids. Sixty percent consume online social media on a regular basis [source: Wortham]. Far more so than prior generations, Baby Boomers tend to be excited about new, high-tech ways to meet their needs or accomplish old tasks -- like online health care management, a Boomer-heavy tech application if ever there were one.

The moral of the story? Just as plenty of Millennials have had to earn their own way and countless Gen X'ers are downright idealistic, Baby Boomers are far more than the stereotypes imply. Often, they defy them entirely.

For more information on the Baby Boomer generation and related topics, look over the links on the next page.

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Sources

  • "Baby boomers bring new boom, as entrepreneurs." Hispanic Business. May 10, 2011. (May 16, 2011) http://www.hispanicbusiness.com/news/2011/5/10/baby_boomers_bring_new_boom_as.htm
  • "Baby boomers 'challenging stereotypes.'" The Sydney Morning Herald. May 19, 2006. (May 16, 2011) http://www.smh.com.au/news/BUSINESS/Baby-boomers-challenging-stereotypes/2006/05/19/1147545502679.html
  • "Baby Boomer Lifestyle Traits & Trends." Hartman Group. (May 16, 2011) http://www.hartman-group.com/hartbeat/baby-boomer-lifestyle-traits-trends
  • Lohr, Steve. "What Do Baby Boomers Want From Technology? BITS. The New York Times. Dec. 7, 2009. (May 16, 2011) http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/what-do-baby-boomers-want-from-technology/
  • Pawlowski, A. "Baby boomers eye adventure, bucket list." CNN. May 13, 2011. (May 16, 2011) http://articles.cnn.com/2011-05-13/travel/baby.boomer.travel.trends_1_boomers-cruise-ships-cruise-industry?_s=PM:TRAVEL
  • Wortham, Jenna. "Baby Boomers, Luddites? Not So Fast." BITS. The New York Times. Feb. 20, 2009. (May 16, 2011) http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/20/baby-boomers-luddites-not-so-fast/

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