Baby boomers: guilt or selfishness? Leisureville and the geriatric generation

 My (late 20s) sister gets some flak about being part of generation Y. You know, that generation that has:-

 ‘an expectation that there will always be a job out there and that you should be able to get to the top job of any average organisation in under 2 years.’

That sort of criticism may be a little more muted now that we are watching a synchronised world economic downturn play out and Gen Y’s adjust to a different world, but, one of the most interesting things about the criticism to me is actually what it says about the (usually) baby boomer speaker.

I am fascinated by the mindset of baby boomers (those born during the post war baby boom between 1946 and 1964) because arguably all of us afterthoughts born after ’64, whether generation X (60s-70’s) or generation Y (80s onward), are not so different, in that we have lived lives relatively similar to our parents the boomers.

What do I mean by this?

I mean that the mindset of most kids is not a little based on the mindsets of their parents… their expectations of economic achievement, friends, and the general threat level in the world is picked up by osmosis from Mum and Dad. 

However in contrast to Gen X or Gen Y the baby boomer’s parents had an almost unimaginable mindset. Imagine you are a baby boomer, born in say 1947. Your parents, and their parents (your grandparents) saw:

  • two world wars
  • the holocaust
  • the Great Depression
  • the post war Spanish flu epidemic (which in 10 months in 1918 killed 22 to 40 million people worldwide)

My parents the boomers are arguably the guilt generation of the last 100 years. 

They must subconsciously or not spend a bit of time thinking to themselves ‘how did I deserve such an easy life when my parents had a so much harder one?’ They didn’t have to fight a war (in most places), struggle to put basic food on the table for their family through a depression, or watch swathes of people they knew die in an epidemic whose death toll was highest not amongst the elderly, but in the 15 to 40 age group. Their parents had to live through all of this stuff.

What impact might this have had – and this is not a rhetorical question – if you have a view I’d love to hear it.

Are boomers striving to prove something? Are they still expecting the sky to fall, which had fallen on their parents? Is their civic identity (their propensity to join political parties for example) a reaction to their parents who needed to stick together in their social group to survive the adversities thrown at them? Just how much of their value system is based on values that were needed to survive in the world of their parents?

And yep, if you haven’t already guessed, we all need to understand our parents.

The Case for the Prosecution: Leisureville

There is also a view that the boomers are selfish, self obsessed, and just a trifle ‘up themselves’ as they say in the Antipodes.

The case is made well by Andrew Blechman in ‘Leisureville’ a sociological exploration of a couple of gated retirement villages in the US where 55+ year olds drive round in golf  carts, children are banned, and Viagra has led to a re-run of the 60s.

As an early 40s type participating in late parenthood the zero children tolerance policy is somewhat appealing; many is the time where I have had those one sided conversations with parents of young children where they spend their entire time watching their kid, make no eye contact, and wouldn’t have a clue what you’d said.

Leisureville is somehow unconvincing however if you are of a live-and-let-live disposition. As many reviewers said, if you paid your taxes all your life and that’s what you choose to do then so be it. Let’s face it for every golf obsessed retirement community like this there are a hundred that you would never wish on your nearest and dearest aged parent.

It seems no more less appealing or worthy of moral judgement than baby boomers wandering from coast to coast in their RVs or caravans as they visit parks and scattered children: if they want to do it, great.

Personally, I could not help wondering re Leisureville, “I wonder if my parents would like something like this?”

This article filed under the following 'Interest' categories (click category for more) Reviews, Self doubt, Unanswerable questions

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Article posted by @Drivelry on March 19, 2009

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