Aging Matters: Generation talk

I recently heard a speech espousing the belief that Generation Y is the real ‘greatest generation.’ Though the Baby-Boomers (that includes me!) and Generation Xers in the audience took some exception to this opinion, we all acknowledged that the idea was thought-provoking. This month’s column cites U.S. statistics that may help you sort out who’s who in this lingo.

Sociologists concur that Baby Boomers, named for the population explosion starting at the end of WWII, includes people born between 1946 and 1964. There are about 76 million of us now. The sheer numbers are what make the aging of the Boomers so daunting. The “boom” is clear in data like these:

• For the 5-year period between 1956 and 1960, inclusive, 21.2 million boomers were born, nearly 1-1/2 times the number born between 1941 and 1945, and the largest for any five-year period in the 20th century.

• Boomers today represent 28 percent of the U.S. population. But in 1964, they represented about 40 percent of the population. In other words, in 1964 more than a third of the population was under 19 years old. See

• There are now more people older than 65 than there are teenagers.

There’s less agreement about the Generation X years, but let’s use 1964 or 1968 to1979; there are about 41 million of them. This group is known as Gen X for short, and characterized as being less work-centric than their parents. And, just as important, they are the group most likely to live to 100 of any group in history, according to a study at the National Center for Health Statistics in Feb. 2004.

Naturally, Generation Y occurs after Gen X: The years are 1979 to 1994, and they’re sometimes called the Millenials. Significant traits defining Generation Y have been influenced by the ascendancy of instant communication that goes beyond e-mail to instant messaging. ‘Text’ has become a verb. But far from buying into the need for instant gratification, my Toastmasters colleague cites a statistic that says 30 percent of Generation Y members volunteer 80 hours monthly. Although that’s certainly true for lots of Boomers I know, she also cites the number of Generation Y’s that started their own businesses at the age of 16. That’s something most of us Boomers can certainly not claim. One thing does ring true: The Millenials insist on a ‘stimulating’ job environment.

Personally, as a Boomer without a flock of Gen X-ers or Millenials to help look after me in my old age, I hope there’s some Millenial that would regard it as stimulating to help take care of me when/if I need it.…