U.S. boomers not alone; some affinity with boomers overseas

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) -- Boomers of the world, unite.

American baby boomers have long known they comprise a unique group -- the biggest and richest generation in history, and just possibly the most ambitious and adventurous.

But they are not alone. Baby boomers overseas share many of the same interests and worries, according to Americans' international counterparts and some recent survey results. It's just that there aren't nearly as many of them.

All are marching toward retirement, focusing on pensions and health spending and sometimes second homes while also maintaining values forged in the '60s and '70s.

''There's a definite sense that we are a special generation here, too,'' said Belinda Taylor, a 52-year-old Briton.

An obsessive focus on their children, increased interest in keeping fit, concerns about looking after aged and infirm parents -- all are prime issues on that side of the Atlantic, too, she said.

Another value also will resonate among American boomers. ''We feel we're forever young,'' said Taylor, a public relations consultant in London. ''We feel we can still wear our beads.''

That sense of eternal youth was prevalent in a recent study of global boomers.

The advertising agency network Euro RSCG Worldwide concluded after surveying more than 2,300 people last year in over two dozen countries that boomers far and wide ''think youth extends well into one's 40s or beyond. They also are convinced that people can be sexy into their 60s, 70s and even 80s -- a possibility no doubt assisted by such age-defying tools as Viagra and cosmetic surgery.''

The United States, where 76 million people were born from 1946-64, gave birth to the term ''baby boomers.'' But many people born elsewhere during the same period, particularly in Canada and Europe, have adopted the same label or another one, even if their population booms were smaller and shorter-lived.

In Britain, they're sometimes known as baby boomers, too, although it's more common to refer to the Swinging Sixties generation and its backlash, Punks, in the late '70s. In France, they're ''soixante huitards'' -- '68ers -- or the protest generation. Dutch dictionaries contain the word ''babyboomer.''

Regardless of the moniker, several key factors unite this generation across countries and regions, according to Euro RSCG's study.

They feel the aftereffects of an extended world war. They are part of a population bulge that put sheer numbers on their side and gave them great social, political and economic power. They enjoyed a time of economic prosperity after years of austerity and deprivation. And they forged a legacy of activism and challenge -- living through major social changes but causing them, too.

The priority on issues and events over money still exists to some extent even as pensions become more important, said Felix Poort, who edits a social trend magazine in the Netherlands.

''Today we are still critical about things,'' the 55-year-old Amsterdam resident said. ''Most of my generation is socially concerned, although we don't step onto the barricades any more.''

Dutch boomers are cautious investors, he said, and would rather spend extra money on fixing up their homes or gardening than trying to accumulate wealth.

Patricia Fernandez, a 38-year-old Madrid native who now lives in Paris, is focused on whether she'll have enough for retirement, just like a young American boomer might. She said she's ''piling up money just to save for that time.''

But the similarities between boomer-age Spaniards and Americans only go so far, she said.

''Spaniards don't have savings plans,'' said Fernandez, who works in advertising. ''In Spain you work to enjoy, to go out with friends, to go on holiday'' -- not to strain to get ahead. ''We have a saying, 'a vivir que son dos dias' -- You have to live because life will only last two days.''

In purely demographic terms, North American boomers are in a league of their own, according to University of Toronto economist David Foot, author of the book ''Boom, Bust and Echo.'' Japan had only a negligible boom because of the atomic bombs; Australia's was spread out over 30 or 40 years; and Europe's boom didn't begin until the '50s because of postwar devastation.

The economic impact of Euro boomers, Foot said, is ''just a pimple'' compared to that of their counterparts in the United States and Canada.

Still, he acknowledges strong similarities in attitude on both sides of the Atlantic on such priorities as healthy living and in increased spending on activities such as gardening and walking.

Just as he insists there is no universal boomer, Foot gently refutes the boomer notion of extended youth -- as embodied by boomer icon Bob Dylan in the lyrics, ''I'm younger than that now.''

''We all think we're acting 10 years younger than our age,'' he said. ''But we're actually spending our money much the same as our parents did.

''We're acting our age, but we think we're not.''

Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion

Trending this week:


© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us