I’ve written here before about whether “Boomer” is the best term to describe the midlife consumer. Over many years I’ve learned that using the word Boomer makes many people think “old” — hardly the right word to apply to people just turning 50.
I haven’t been able to persuade anyone to abandon the word yet. But maybe they will now.
Last month marked an important transition, for Boomers and for the generation following in their wake:
Gen X turned 50.
“Slackers” Are Actually Excited About Their Age
Over the last 10 years I’ve been asking Boomers how they actually feel about reaching midlife. As 2014 came to a close, I started asking the same question of Gen Xers.
We might have expected — the members of this famously cynical generation themselves might have expected — to enter midlife with a sense of doom.
After all, it was Gen X icon Molly Ringwald who said (in 1985’s “The Breakfast Club”), “When you grow up, your heart dies.”
In reality, the opposite turned out to be true. As further described in a new special report, even these famous “slackers” are actually excited about their futures.
Just as “happiness” studies have routinely showed that life improves (sometimes unexpectedly) around age 45 - 50, the women of Gen X tell us that they like what’s happening as they get older.
Seventy-eight percent of them defined their feelings about aging in exclusively positive terms. They said things like “I love love love my age.” And they admit this is sometimes a surprise. As one respondent said, “How being my age actually feels and the concept of age that I had as a child is completely dissonant. I feel great about my age.”
The Original “Geeks” Are More Digital Than Ever
Maybe now that Gen X is 50 we’ll stop hearing questions about whether consumers over 50 actually use the internet — at least we should.
It was 32 years ago that Gen X icons Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy starred in “War Games,” a movie in which teenagers hack into the U.S. nuclear defense system and then have to play a computer game to save the world. And you thought Millennials invented hacking and computer games?
Gen Xers don’t remember life without digital tools, and they have adapted for the last 30 years to each digital revolution at work and at home. That isn’t going to stop just because they turned 50.
Eighty-four percent of Gen X women told us they bought themselves a smartphone in the last 12 months (another 71% bought a new tablet/iPad), and they are using it in as many different ways as their Millennial children to remain in an ever-growing network that includes three (or four) generations of their own families, colleagues and friends.
The #1 way they communicate with their parents is by telephone; the #1 way they communicate with their children is by text; and the #1 way they communicate with friends is by Facebook and other social media. No wonder they keep buying new phones.
Marketers who want to reach consumers aged 45+ have been over-dependent on television and
print; in 2015 they’d better get themselves onto that phone.
Life Stage Trumps Generation
Boomers were the first generation to find that turning 50 opened up a new world; neither young nor old, the longevity revolution gave them 20 years to enjoy a stage of life their own parents had not known. Gen X is now learning the same lesson — and they are following their Boomer peers into a new happiness at 50.
Whatever we call them, people aged 45 - 65 are living a now-familiar life stage, one that is not defined by the generation they were born into.
Are we ready to stop calling them Boomers?