The Diagnosis: 'Boomeritis'
At social gatherings we have been struck by the number of conversations between older Boomers about doctor visits, chronic conditions, recent procedures, physical therapy sessions and prescription drugs. At first we thought they were talking about providing care for elderly parents. But, no, the patient was in the room; in fact, he or she was in every conversation.
Boomers are coming face-to-face with the reality that, at age 50 and beyond, the warranty on the equipment is running out. Vision, hearing, knees, hips and other component parts need upgrades if not complete replacement. One-time blemishes and laugh lines now need professional attention and space-age lasers. Sagging sections from head to toe benefit from a nip here, a tuck there. On top of that, chronic conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and -- dare we say -- erectile dysfunction need on-going management. Better living through chemistry, indeed.
It's no surprise that doctor visits are at record levels, Botox procedures are in the millions, and self-care Web sites generate traffic that rivals search engines. Boomers are in prime time when it comes to their health. The sheer number of Boomers means the nation will set new records for the number of patients with high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. Tell your kids to invest in Tylenol. We're going to need it.
As observers of Boomers, we've wondered why talking about our health is providing new fodder for social conversations. We gasp at younger generations and their willingness to reveal all on Facebook. We may not post our medical stories online, but we do tell anyone and everyone we know about them. Why do we share our personal attempts to restore vitality?
Then it hit us. Our personal health stories provide new ammunition in our life-long quest to establish our uniqueness. It's all about ME, and now, well, ME and MY DOCTOR.
This fascination, focus and willingness to share intimate details of our medical maladies seem to us to be the latest manifestation of the Boomer generational trait to be "self" centered -- a lifelong chronic condition we call "Boomeritis."
Today's older Boomers had three siblings (on average) in a home environment that typically made the children the focus, thanks to Dr. Benjamin Spock's 1946 opus Baby and Child Care. Children were seen and heard, and quite naturally, a "what's in this for me?" mentality took root.
This struggle to identify our uniqueness still drives our social behavior. Finding a way to stand apart is woven into our very fabric.
In the 1970s and '80s, when two Boomers met, the ice breakers revolved around jobs and careers. What we did for a living became the source of social conversations. Not "who are you?" but "what do you do?" Then came marriage and those baby carriages, and Boomers created new content for social interactions, and new ways to share their uniqueness, through talking about their kids. Each one unique, of course.
Now, at 50 and older, we're less interested in talking about our work or the exploits of our children to set ourselves apart, so we reveal and revel in stories about our medical adventures.
"Boomeritis" isn't fatal, but instructive: Find ways to make your marketing personal to Boomers. They don't respond to messages about "everyone" or "everybody" because each and every one of the 76 million Boomers sees themselves as unique and different.