Born 1946-1964, the Baby Boomers are the generational result of the optimism that reigned after the end of World War II. The return of soldiers after the War coincided with improved economic conditions and government initiatives that gave people hope for the future. They started building their careers and started families.
Baby Boomers outnumber the other generations. Their number grew to a high of 78.8 million in 1999 and they were the largest adult generation until 2019 when they were overtaken by the Millennials.
The Baby Boomers are the children of the Silent Generation and the parents of Generation X.
Why was this generation called the baby boomers?
Following the end of World War II, there was an increase – a boom - in births. The resulting children were referred to as the Baby Boomers.
Characteristics of Baby Boomers
Defined by their job or profession
The identity of a Baby Boomer is deeply embedded in their job or profession. In many ways, they are their job. Take that away and they feel completely rudderless. This fact might be one way to explain the sudden deterioration in the health and wellbeing of Baby Boomers who retire at normal retirement age.
Baby Boomers choose not to retire
Many Baby Boomers choose not to retire at all. If their company allows it they will work past retirement age. Or they might retire from their company and join a smaller firm and do work without compensation. In 2018, 29% of Boomers ages 65 to 72 were working or looking for work.
People no longer retire at 65 if they are in good health. People have longer lifespans and they have access to healthcare and health information, so it’s possible to stay healthy and work well past retirement age.
They don’t behave like senior citizens
This is the first generation of senior citizens who refuse to be senior citizens. They keep on working, running companies, they jump out of planes, run marathons and earn black belts in martial arts. Examples of Boomers that are not slowing down include Bill Gates, John McEnroe, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump Andrea Bocelli, and Jeff Bezos.
A strong work ethic with many nonconformists
The Boomer work ethic goes further than commitment to hard work. They are ambitious and competitive. Career success is important to them. That doesn’t mean that they are always team players. While some climb the career ladder to great heights, many others buck the system and go it their own way.
Inventor, entrepreneur and businessman Steve Jobs is an example of a boomer who questioned authority and made a successful career for himself. Of course, Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson are two other examples. These boomers are competitive and nonconformists as are many of their peers.
Boomers took on several causes that they fought for. The demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, fighting for equal rights for women and the civil rights movement define this generation. Boomers were also behind the gay rights movement to protect the LGBT community.
Fight for own identity
Their social consciousness went hand in hand with a desire to be different from their parents. In the 60s and 70s, many Boomers wore their hair long, smoked pot and indulged in free love to demonstrate that they are different from their parents. They rejected the traditional social values of the time gave birth to individualism which has become an enduring quality of the American psyche.
Interesting facts about the time of the Baby Boomers
Women’s rights movement
The women of the 60s and 70s went out in their thousands to fight for women’s rights. They formed the women’s rights movement, also called the women’s liberation movement to get equal rights and opportunities for women.
Their efforts culminated in a march in DC in 1978 attended by a record-breaking 100,000 women and their supporters. The march was led by Gloria Steinem and other feminist leaders including Betty Friedan, Elizabeth Holtzman, Barbara Mikulski, and Margaret Heckler. In the same year, Congress passed the ERA which would have guaranteed women equal rights and equal pay.
Women made progress
Although the issues tackled by the Women’s rights movement have still not been resolved - women, earn on average 80% of what men earn for the same work and America still has no guaranteed maternity leave – things have improved for women on the watch of the Baby Boomers.
In this era, women have started to feature more prominently in business, academics, industry and politics, with some reaching leadership positions, examples are GM CEO Mary Barra; IBM CEO Ginni Rometty; President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde; German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Speaker, United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; CEO YouTube Susan Wojcicki, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to mention a few.
The Boomer generation, unlike the previous generation, were not silent when they felt that something was unfair. While large numbers of them served in the Vietnam War and increasing numbers of young men were drafted for it, the public started questioning the merits of the war.
While there never had been total support for the war, what support there was steadily dwindled after 1965 through to the early 70s.
Opposition to America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was largely led by the Baby Boomers. Not only did the war end, but so great was the sentiment against the war and those that participated in it, that America turned its back on the veterans who returned home from the war.
The assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King
The assassination of President JF Kennedy (November 22, 1963) and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King (April 4, 1968) were pivotal events in the lives of Baby Boomers.
Most Boomers can answer without hesitation the question: “Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated?”
They sat for hours with their families watching the drama unfold on television, most mourning a president they adored and others celebrating his death.
Just five years later the country endured another shocking event when Martin Luther King, the leader of the Civil Rights Movement was assassinated. King was a Baptist minister who worked to change the lives of African Americans.
Another defining moment in the lives of Baby Boomers is the iconic Woodstock Music and Art Fair, which took place on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York from August 15-18, 1969. The top music of the era was performed at Woodstock to crowds of peace-loving and peace-promoting Boomers. The acts included Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Johnny Winter, and loads more.
Woodstock occupies a special place in the hearts of all who love the music of that time and also dream of a more loving and peaceful world.
The impact of the Baby Boomers will reverberate through history for many decades to come. They have shaped the political, social, and physical landscape of today and are still influencing it.
Think about it, these world leaders (and others) are all baby boomers: Donald Trump. Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe, and Boris Johnson.
Some of them have also spearheaded our technological advancement, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak.
The Baby Boomers are still very much with us and they will continue to impact our world for some time to come.