They've arrived. In 2011, that first round of Baby Boomers—those Americans born between 1946 and 1964—turns 65.
From now until 2030, 10,000 Baby Boomers each day will hit retirement age. Millions will begin to officially retire, collect social security checks and go on Medicare. Other Boomers will keep on working either out of financial necessity or out of some less tangible need like identity and self-worth.
In the several decades prior to the Boom, babies in the U.S. were born at a rate of about 2.5 million a year. Then in 1946, this rate exploded to 3.4 million and maintained this pace for the next few decades. The peak years were 1957 and 1961 with 4.3 million births a year. In all, these years produced about 76 million Baby Boomers. The official retirement age to receive a Social Security check is 62. At 65, you'll automatically receive Medicare which covers basic health care at 80%. If you wait to retire until you're 67, your benefit will be about 30% higher than at 62. Wait another three years to retire and you could receive a 75% bigger check. It certainly pays to wait.
Are you a Baby Boomer or do you have a loved one that is? This generation was one of the largest in American history, and it is perhaps one of the most important right now when it comes to senior living. This group of people has very unique personalities, and their life histories are vastly different than today's younger generation. Here's a closer look at who they are and what they stand for.
What's a Baby Boomer?
A Baby Boomer is a term used to describe people that were born during the period of time right after World War II. During that period of time, the birth rate of Americans soared. This is where the name comes from. This is a term used to describe an entire generation of people. And, this generation came after The Greatest Generation (or GI Generation) and the Silent Generation. Generation X followed this generation, followed by Millennials.
Baby Boomers were born in an era that experienced great U.S. political and social upheaval. From race riots to the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam protests, the assassinations of JFK, MLK and RFK, and the man on the moon to free love and drug experimentation, Boomers saw a U.S. that was both financially prosperous and socially turned on its head. Consider the U.S. economy between 1940 and 1960:
- Gross National Product doubled
- Real purchasing power increased by 30%
- Four-fifths of American families owned at least one car
- Home ownership increased to 61%
This growth was due to their parents, the Greatest Generation. The Boomers were responsible for some growth: consumer debt jumped from 22% in 1946 to 110% in 2002. Boomers are often labeled as individualist, selfish, cynical, pessimistic, narcissistic, and socially responsible. But it's hard to label a group that came into the world over a nearly two decade stretch—so much happened so fast over those years. Many are certainly looser with social conventions than their parents. Consider the following.
In one survey, 44% of Baby Boomers were fine with sex outside marriage, 37% approved of casual sex, 29% approved of legalizing marijuana. Americans born in the 40s were dancing to Buddy Holly one decade and starting their careers the next. Boomers born in the 50s grew up with the Beatles, Dylan and the Stones, and protested the Vietnam War in college. The 60s Boomers caught the tail end of Vietnam, Watergate and Richard Nixon's resignation and Disco. A Boomer born in 1964 could be the child of a Boomer born in 1946.
Boomer Statistics and Facts
The following Baby Boomer statistics may surprise, frighten or enlighten you:
- Baby Boomers make up 28% of the population.
- Baby Boomers are responsible for over half of consumer spending.
- Baby Boomers control 80% of personal financial assets.
- One in three Americans over 65 relies on Social Security benefits alone.
- Three out four claim benefits when they turn 62 out of financial necessity.
- In 2010 Social Security paid out more in benefits than it received in tax payments.
- In 1950, 16 workers paid for each retiree's SS benefit; In 2010, it was 3.3 workers and by 2025 it's projected to be two workers.
40% of Boomers plan to “work until I drop” according to an AARP survey.
SeniorLiving.org was created for the Baby Boomers. Our site includes tons of articles to help baby boomers plan their retirement and maximize their lifestyle.
We also have the most complete directory of senior living options so boomers can plan for their heath care needs. It was the baby boomers that made our country great and now we hope you will use SeniorLiving.org to help you get the top-notch retirement you deserve.
What Are the Birth Years for the Baby Boomer Generation?
Baby Boomers officially were born between 1946 through 1964. Sometimes, this range is 1943 through 1964. In all cases, it was the generation that was born just following the return of the military from World War II. By the end of 1946, there were 2.4 million baby boomers born. That was just that initial year. In 1964, that number swelled to 72.5 million baby boomers. And, by 1999, their highest population present in the United States was 78.8 million people. This also includes those who immigrated to the country and were born in those years.
What Generation Came Before Baby Boomers? Which Came After?
As noted, the Silent Generation came directly prior to the Baby Boomer generation. This generation, which spanned from 1925 through 1945 was an era in which these individuals were considered more cautious than their parents were. This generation was responsible, though, for shaping the 20th century pop culture and they brought with them television legends, filmmakers, gonzo journalists and political satirists. Interestingly, there are no presidents born in this generation.
Generation X came after the Baby Boomer generation. These individuals were born between 1964 and 1982 (sometimes this is from 1965 through 1979.) No members of this generation served as president. However, this generation is known to have done well. The group collectively learned more than Baby Boomers did when they were the same age. However, only 36 percent of them have more wealth than their parents. That's due to the increased amount of debt held by this generation. By 2028, Generation X will outnumber Baby Boomers. As of 2016, there were between 61.2 million and 65.6 million present in the country.
Why Is the Baby Boomer Generation So Significant?
After 16 long years of depression and war, Americans longed for a time of normalcy. This is what led to the incredible numbers of births in the years following the wars. And, older Americans who had previously put off getting married and having children during the rough years of the Great Depression followed by the war were not able to do so.
One thing that makes this group so interesting is their confidence in the future. After such long battles, this group is known for its positive, confident attitude that the future looked comfortable and prosperous. And, they were accurate for many reasons. During their lifetimes, they watched businesses grow and become profitable. They watched labor unions to help to improve working conditions for people. And, they saw wages rise. They also saw schools become more accessible.
And, perhaps one of the biggest changes to hit Americans happened during their lifetime. People moved to the suburbs. Baby Boomers were able to build their own homes using developers who were now using faster methods to building homes. It was more affordable to buy a home, build a home, and access the funds to do so through the GI Bill. Their homes changed, too. For the first time, there were spaces meant for fun such as “family rooms.”
What Are Some Characteristics of the Baby Boomer Generation?
Baby Boomers were a hard-working generation. And, they value that hard work. Yet, they also have a strong desire to enjoy a higher quality of life. Some of the key characteristics of these individuals include:
- They valued individual choice.
- They saw community involvement as necessary and essential.
- They sought health and wellness in new ways.
- They were self-actualizing.
- They wanted and worked hard to earn prosperity.
- They sought ownership of businesses and homes.
- They were confident in the tasks they had to do.
- They worked hard to avoid conflicts and sought a more pleasant way to communicate.
- They adapted easily to change.
- They also had a maintained positive attitude throughout their days.
- Most are very goal oriented, but they also worked well in teams.
This generation also began the movements towards equal rights, and they understood the pressures of failure. Yet, they continued to work hard to achieve the goals they set out.
What's the Difference Between Baby Boomers and Millennials?
Baby Boomers are quite different from Millennials. For example, they are far more conservative and less likely to speak out than Millennials are. Millennials tend to be significantly more progressive on social issues. Whereas Baby Boomers thrived on supporting the whole family unit with a married set of parents, Millennials are less focused on getting married and more likely to support gay marriage. They are also more likely to support the legalization of marijuana and are less likely to be religious.
Other differences in Millennials and Baby Boomers exist. For example, Millennials are less likely to own a home or a vehicle. They instead rely on renting and do not strive to build ownership as readily. On the other hand, Baby Boomers saw home ownership as an important part of a successful life. Millennials are also less likely to be affluent than Baby Boomers. Millennials have significantly more debt as well.
How Many Baby Boomers Will Be Retiring Soon? How Does This Impact the Healthcare System?
There are many differences in Baby Boomers and the world around them, but one thing is clear. This large generation will tax the health care system like none before it. And, while their sheer number will play an important role in that, they will also have different views on what type of care is acceptable to them and for their needs.
For example, many Baby Boomers want to live at home or remain in a residential setting. They do not want to be in nursing homes like their parents. And, this will require more locations for independent and assisted living to become available. This will also increase the demand for in-home care devices, such as medical alert systems. This generation is also living longer and, with that, comes the need for improved health care. They also need more long-term support after retirement. Many in this generation are happy to seek out more advanced and cutting-edge medical technology. Overall, Baby Boomers will help to modernize the healthcare industry through their growing needs.
What are Some of the Medical Needs of Baby Boomers?
While baby boomers will all have different medical needs, there are two areas that are among the most popular…medical alert systems and hearing aids. When it comes to these two areas, there are many different options to consider.
Medical Alert Systems
Medical alert systems are life-saving devices that can trigger calls to loved ones and emergency responders when the user is in danger. With one push of a button, a call is made to a response center that handles the emergency. When you start doing your homework about popular medical alert systems, you’ll find that there are several companies that have made a name for themselves in the medical alert system business. No matter which one you choose, you should look into the following factors:
- Ease of use– This is a big one because if multiple users report difficulty in getting the system to work, it could be a red flag to move on. You want a system that is easy to use, especially in the event of an emergency.
- Service & response– Equally as important is the service and response portion of the review. A medical alert system needs to have a reliable call center that is quick and courteous. It truly is a matter of life and death.
- Available equipment– Consider the types of equipment that are available and if they suit your needs. Some medical alert systems offer a fob or other mode to signal for help while others only have the wearable pendants. See how users have reviewed the equipment and how it functions.
- Features & technology– If you’re not that tech-savvy you’ll want to shy away from medical alert systems that depend heavily on advanced technology. There are plenty of simple systems as well as more advanced ones. Look at how people rate the features and use of technology to see if they’re worth the money.
- Pricing- Cost may also be reviewed as customers comment at whether the equipment and service are worth the money. Here, you may also get insight on any contracts or fees involved. If someone was burned by a company with a contract or extra fees you’ll be sure to read about it in a review. Take all of this into consideration as you decide which medical alert system to get.
Medical alert systems are especially useful for those seniors who still want to live independently, but whose families want the peace of mind of knowing help is only a click away. There are many medical alert companies that also allow family members to keep track of their loved ones and their activity through an app.
There is also a wide variety of choices when it comes to hearing aids. From companies to feature to prices, it can become overwhelming. While your health care provider can help you to decide which one is right for you, it’s also important to do your homework so you have knowledge before your appointment. If you’re reluctant to get a hearing aid because you don’t want people seeing it, there is a variety of styles that make the hearing aid virtually invisible. Ignoring the need for a hearing aid can be dangerous and can also make you miss out on social gatherings. One of the first things you should think about is what type of hearing aid you want or need.
- Behind-the-ear hearing aid (BTE) is the most noticeable type of hearing aid, but it typically has many features. It’s easy to put on and is usually good for those with severe hearing loss.
- Mini-behind-the-ear hearing aid (mBTE) is less visible than BTEs and can be easy to put on. But, there isn’t much in the way of amplification. This is something to consider if you don’t hear well in the low frequencies.
- Traditional in-the-ear aid (ITE) fits in the outer ear. It is spacious and can accommodate many features like directional microphone and telecoil.
- In-the-canal aid (ITC) offers features such as directional microphones on bigger versions. ITCs are hard for other people to see but can be uncomfortable for wearers. Common problems with these hearing aids include short battery life, earwax, and moisture. They can be difficult for seniors to put on and handle/adjust.
- Completely-in-the-canal aid (CIC) is the least visible of all hearing aids. Users take it out with a removal string and some complain that it can be painful. Since they are so tiny, there isn’t room for many features. There is a shorter battery life and more wax buildup with this type of hearing aid.
After you decide the type of hearing aid you want, you’ll also want to look into the variety of features. Here are some of the most common features you’ll find:
- Telecoil to minimize background noise and help wearers better understand speakers in person and on the phone
- Feedback suppression (also called digital feedback reduction)
- Digital noise reduction for blocking out background sounds
- Automatic and manual volume control
- Smartphone app control
- Multiple settings for different environments
- Direct audio input with TVs, telephones, computers, microphones and other devices
- Bluetooth for music, TV dialogue and phone calls to be directly streamed into the hearing aid
- Wax guards to prevent wax buildup
- Low-battery sound notifications
- Rechargeable batteries
What Senior Living Options Exist for Baby Boomers?
With Baby Boomers beginning to reach into their older years, there has never been a more important time for them to find the senior living options available to them. The good news is there are many options to fill just about any need.
- Senior living communities allow those over the age of 55 to buy their home or condo within a private, amenity-filled community.
- Assisted living communities allow seniors to access some of the help they need as they get older while still allowing them to live on their own.
- Nursing homes are another solution, ideally suited to those who need more help and ongoing medical care.
Of course, many other options in senior living exist as well. From large farms to upscale apartment communities in urban areas, there are plenty of options available to today's senior looking to enjoy a higher quality of life.