What Boomers Want (or Need)

By Karen Cifala

Remember that movie What Women Want, with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt? This romantic comedy adroitly portrayed a man’s willingness to just listen to what a woman really wants. Just listen. That’s really what we want!

I have a similar movie I’d like to see produced: What Boomers Want. It’s also a comedy—a comedy of trial and error in trying to figure out how to stay happy and healthy while moving through the next stages of life.

Dr. Ken Dychtwald coined the term “age wave” in the 1980s after realizing that when the Baby Boomers turned 60 and older, there would be a dramatic shift in the composition and needs of society. Look up Dr. Dychtwald, a visionary gerontologist and lecturer, and read about the thought-provoking ideas he has on retirement, aging. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Here’s a reality check for you: Not all boomers want to fly south to live on a golf course. In fact, according to AARP, 9 out of 10 retirees plan to stay put. We are not planning to do what our parents did. We boomers will invent our own method in our madness. Like Mel Gibson’s quest to understand women, understanding what boomers want is key to providing solutions to handle the “age wave.”

Here is a wish list for us boomers. If you have more to add, please let me know. It’s all about the experience, right?

Boomers don’t want to be called Seniors. Boomers don’t like to be identified by their age. We don’t call people “junior citizens,” so why do we call people “senior citizens?” To stay out of trouble with boomers, maybe start your conversation with “at your stage of life.” Let’s face it: Boomers don’t ever want to think of themselves as old.

Boomers want universal design (UD) in their homes so they can live there regardless of their level of ability or disability. UD, sometimes called “lifespan design,” meets building standards that not only increase the value of a home but include handicapped access, ergonomic, and green design. If you are considering remodeling an older home, ask your contractor who might recommend thoughtful changes that can make a world of difference without changing a home’s layout.

Boomers want to live a cyclic life where they continue to reinvent themselves and try new things, unlike previous generations who lived a linear life plan: You raised your family and worked, you rested, you thought you were old, and you got put out to pasture! Reinvention for “older citizens” used to be considered abnormal. “What? You don’t want to be a dentist anymore? What’s wrong with you?” But Boomers change their careers, their lives, their friends, and maybe even their spouses! So when they reach a point where they have more free time, why would they stop?!

Boomers want to continue to be trendsetters; enough said on that. Always were, always will be.

Boomers want to be fantastic grandparents, and today’s grandparents are doing more outdoor sports with their grandkids than ever before, and are buying lots of toys along the way. They also want to stay hip and cool and younger than any previous generation at this stage of life.

Boomers want to make aging ageless. They love sharing interests and mindsets with all ages rather than clustering into age groups. Trans-generational settings are often preferable, says Dr. Dychtwald: “More and more we see examples of people rooming with, being friends with, working in partnership with, sitting down and enjoying lunch with, sharing emails with, or sitting in on book clubs with people of all ages.”

Boomers like the outward symbols of wisdom and experience, such as gray hair. They believe the longer you live, the greater experience you gain, and the gray is a symbol of experience. Physical aging can be thought of in one of two ways. Either “staying healthy helps me feel younger,” or “I’m just vain and I’m trying to look younger!” Either way, boomers are not going to patiently get old and quietly go to the sidelines.

Boomer men and women are not running the same race. OMG, really? Yes, women do live longer and may have more fluid identities—woman, wife, mother, realtor (I had to get that one in somewhere!), doctor, caregiver, we’ve done it all. Men have a more rigid identity of themselves—man, husband, dad, realtor, doctor . . . hmm, this doesn’t seem as different as I thought. But seriously, our society believes men look distinguished and wise with grey hair while women maybe just look frumpier. So women have a little more of an uphill climb to look like they have their act together and are taking care of themselves.

Boomers want to know what their options are, which means they need to know more about Medicare and Social Security. For boomers in our area, the Medicare Café is holding monthly seminars open to the public where you can learn all about Medicare, including how to sign up and how to choose plans. It’s located at the VFW Post 9760, 425 South Buckmarsh Street in Berryville on the following dates from 10 a.m. to 12 noon; April 16, May 28, June 18, Sept 24, Oct 15, and Nov 19. Come and learn and get your questions answered.

So what does it mean to be “old” today? According to Dychtwald, “Old age is being reconstructed and relocated.” Just look at Mick Jagger: a perfect example of a boomer who can’t be bothered with getting old.

Karen Cifala is a senior real estate specialist with Remax Roots in Berryville. To reach her you can call her at (303)817-9374 or email her at kcifala@gmail.com.