THE BLOG

The 'Boomers' v Generation X

05/09/2016 12:03 | Updated 05 September 2016

Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins the presidential election race in the USA, the next President will be pushing 70 - and a member of the post-war generation known as the "boomers". It's a generation that at least here in the US is still very much to the fore. People don't seem to say, as I have heard in the UK, that it's about time they started to make way for the next generation. That is of course, the babies of the 60s and 70s, known as Generation X, famous for cynicism, Britpop and apathy.

Perhaps looking at the godawful mess that British politics is has been left in by its Generation X leaders is not much of an advert. For some, that slacker style, like a bad tattoo has stuck with age. Both David Cameron and Boris Johnson frequently give the impression of having done their homework in the back of the ministerial limo and spent more time on the sardonic quip or a Smiths' quotation than on policy detail.

There was an archetypal moment on the night of the Brexit vote, as the pundits started to say that the vote was going against the Government when it transpired that after all, Cameron did have a plan B. it was to put the champagne back in the fridge. And then send out for 40 Silk Cut as in the stress of the situation, Samantha had started smoking again. That was very GenX.

When he left Parliament, he was heard humming a tune. I like to think it was the Friends theme tune: "It's like you're always stuck in second gear. When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year,"

There was of course no compelling candidate at the top of US politics from this generation. Bernie Sanders of course, was 74. And Marco Rubio, 44, basically threw away his campaign by making a dick joke in a serious political debate.

Personally, I like the fact that the boomers are still going strong. It makes me feel younger. Recently, at one of Boston North End's many summer festivals, we saw a loud rock band giving it laldy in the street, in front of them, a man in a high vis jacket and holding a bike was jigging about to the music. Rather unexpectedly he looked to be in his mid 70s.

Another Sunday morning, we heard shouts telling pedestrians to get out the way. A stream of hundreds of Harley Davidsons started to roll through the centre of Boston.The riders, clad in leather and studs, looked like a phalanx of rogue grandads. In the US this year, I have been sold anti-ageing cream, been guided on a cycle trip and watched an exhibition of Cuban dance, all by people in their 60s and 70s. Not to mention seeing older people at places like the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, confidently using the latest digital technology.

They are an impressive generation. New research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College shows that the fastest-rising rate of participation in the workforce in the US is from workers aged 62 to 64. For jobs requiring reliability and outside work, such as real estate sales, night watchman, concierge, funeral director, clergy, they are more likely to be hired than younger workers. And at the same time as their participation is rising there are millions missing from the generation below.

It may be that the health of the luckiest portion of this huge generation, the biggest in US history, is particularly good. They were free-range kids who played outside, and many of them grew up eating home cooked food. For many also, work was not as physically demanding or literally backbreaking as it was before the war. And although there is a huge social inequality in the US when it comes to health care, for those that have it, it is good.

Having been born to a generation of parents exhausted by the Second World War, the boomers have been leaders all their lives, embracing and reinventing each phase. I loved a moment in the movie "Independence Day: Resurgence", when an elderly, grey-ponytailed scientist who has just woken from a coma is conversing with an alien robot. "Many years ago our species gave up our biological existence". "Far out!" the old boomer replies, excited.

In the US at least, the boomers show no sign yet of fading away. If the next President gets the usual two terms, the oldest millennials will be entering their 40s. It could be that power will pass directly to them. They will undoubtedly do a great job. They are the most innovative generation of totally-wired individuals that the world has ever seen and they have already changed the world. There was no such thing as geek chic when I was at school. And Generation X? Meet you at the cemetery gates, we can settle that score about Oscar Wilde and Keats and Yeats.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS