Baby Boomers: A New Way to Grow Old
Experts explain why baby boomers aren't likely to rest on their laurels when they retire.
Eisner says people can find volunteer opportunities in their area by going
"It lists thousands of organizations with hundreds of thousands of
opportunities," Eisner says. "It's a clearinghouse of clearinghouses
Also, the Harvard Mentoring Project, sponsored by the Harvard School of
Public Health, recently launched an ad campaign that directs people to
www.mentoring.org, which features mentoring opportunities.
The changes in personality that take place as a person matures may actually
promote the impulse to volunteer.
The psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, who divided life into various developmental
stages, said later middle age brings an increase in "generativity" -
the desire to pass on knowledge and experience to the younger generation.
Older Boomers and Spirituality
In addition, baby boomers have displayed a strong tendency toward a more
active, personalized "lived religion," according to Wade Clark Roof of
the University of California, Santa Barbara. Clark has examined boomer
religious tendencies in two books, A Generation of Seekers and
Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American
Boomers have used religion as a sort of "quest culture" for seeking
transformation, both personal and social, Roof has found, and this could
accentuate their desire in the years ahead to seek meaningful change through
volunteerism and other activities.
Laura L. Carstensen, PhD, a psychology professor at Stanford, has found that
as people get older they develop a "positivity bias" that causes them
to screen out negative thoughts and focus on what's really important to
"And for most people, what's important is what's emotionally
meaningful," Carstensen tells WebMD. "There's a paradox about aging: As
we get closer to the end of our lives, we recognize how precious life
Aging Boomers and Mental Health
In general the mental health of older adults is much better than in middle
aged and younger adults, Carstensen says.
"They have lower rates of depression and anxiety," she says.
"They also show these positive attentional shifts."
Surveys have found that baby boomers scorn the terms "senior" and
"retirement" because they sound like they apply to old people. Yet
members of this generation will get older and they will retire.
"But they're going to do it on their own terms," says Matt
Thornhill, president and founder of the Boomer Project, which collects
marketing data on boomers. "They want to remain vital. They want to remain
physically vital, so they'll exercise and take care of themselves. They want to
remain vital financially, so they'll continue to accumulate money. They want to
remain mentally vital and spiritually vital. And they want to remain socially
vital, so they're not going to sell their house, buy a condo, and move to
Florida. They want to stay involved with family and friends.
"The boomers will not put themselves out to pasture. They are going to
do everything they can to remain vital. Viva the vital!"
Published Jan. 9, 2006.