What's a Boomer?

Article excerpt

For leisure professionals to be

adequately prepared for baby

boomers as they approach their

retirement years, we must be

reminded of the demographic detail

of this age group, their attitudes

and their leisure tendencies.

Of the 76 million people known as baby boomers, 42 percent will be over 50 years of age by 2005.

As a group, they are a massive spending block.

Median income level of this age group is $51,700. It is a well-educated group, with 50 percent attaining at least two years of college.

Even with the relatively high income level, there's a growing gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" in this age group. According to an AARP survey, at least 23 percent of boomers won't be financially prepared for retirement.

Sixty-eight percent of boomers are married.

/\ They have always been fixated with all things youthful. Boomers typically respond that they feel 10 years younger than their chronological age.

/\ Their nostalgic mindset keeps boomers returning to the sites and sounds of their 1960s youth culture. As long as the likes of Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney can crawl onto the stage, there will be boomers to fill the arena seats. Nancy Brattain Rogers, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana State University, has quipped that boomers' movement into retirement can be considered "The Golden Age of Aquarius."

/\ Boomers view retirement as only a "mid-life" event. A survey conducted last year by Del Webb Communities and the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at Arizona State University found that boomers moving into planned retirement communities intend to either work part-time, change careers or start new business opportunities. Therefore, they may be more logically ready to recreate rather than retire.

/\ Time has always been a precious commodity to boomers. Planners that manage appointments from sunrise to late in the evening rule their lives. They have consistently over-programmed their days by attempting to pack every hour of the day with very little down time.

/\ Boomers are known to purchase more upscale goods and services than other age groups. They are attracted to facilities that emulate the Club Med or country club philosophy.

/\ According to Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, boomers are less disposed to civic engagements than previous generations. Putman's research casts concern on how, and to what extent, the boomer generation will volunteer as they age. The suggestion of decreased volunteerism by boomers to the parks and recreation agencies forewarns a drastic financial impact.

/\ Boomers will attempt to separate themselves from any signs or symbols that will connect them to being old. Putnam gives the example that, to boomers, the card game bridge will have the same antique sound as their grandparents' favorite card game, whist, had to their parents' ears.

/\ This age group tends to enjoy more individualized activities rather than group events. This supports the social theory that Americans are moving toward a culture of social isolationism. Boomers prefer to socialize in smaller groups and typically stay within extended family circles.

Reshaping Retirement

So, with these characteristics, what can we say about how boomers will reshape retirement?

First, boomers will remain dedicated to health, wellness and exercise. Our field must be prepared for high-end fitness centers catering to adults. At the facility I head, Green Valley Recreation, a private, leisure-service organization in Southern Arizona, we've seen a 34 percent annual usage increase in our five fitness centers over the past five years. Furthermore, every other retirement community in Arizona is seeing the same upward trends for fitness centers. A well-equipped fitness center is becoming a standard design element in new adult centers. The International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association recently reported that membership from the 55+ age group has jumped by 114 percent over the last three years, while decreases in membership have been documented for the 18-35 age group. …