Baby Boomers Are Different Than Generation Jones

Most of us have never heard of the population cohort called Generation Jones. I know I hadn’t until I heard someone use the term and looked it up. Although I will say that I’m not particularly fond of the name – it sounds bit derogatory – Gen Jonesers are the second half of the baby boom generation, born about 1955 through 1964. As you can imagine, the issues facing the older boomers are quite different than those facing the younger ones. The oldest boomer is about 72 while the youngest are in their early 50s, detesting the fact that they’re 50 and now considered “middle age.”

I confess that I’m an older boomer and I’ve always felt that I was quite different throughout my life than my younger boomer friends. I remember listening to radio because we didn’t get our TV until I was about 7 or 8 (and of course it was black and white). I was at the very impressionable age of 15 when our beloved Camelot president, JFK, was assassinated. I was one of 40 students in most of my overcrowded high school classes (not to mention one of 2000 graduates). I was in high school when the free speech and women’s movements were just getting started so I have strong memories of the struggles. I was draft age when they were drafting young men to go to war in Vietnam. I was in college when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. Compare that to someone born in 1960: no draft, too young for there to have been much impact of assassinations of heroes, or even if you weren’t a supporter, of major leaders. The newspapers had already eliminated the “Men Wanted” and “Women Wanted” classified want-ad distinction (not to say there wasn’t still discrimination, it’s just that it wasn’t endorsed in newspapers). And they had already built all those schools needed to house the growing population.

Even our music was different. I grew up on early Rock & Roll, (Elvis, Chuck Berry), Motown, Doo Wop, and folk music. I learned to play the guitar so I could sing the folk music sung by Pete Seeger, the Kingston Trio, that newcomer Joan Baez, early Dylan, and Peter, Paul, & Mary. The Gen Joneses barely remember the Beatles as a group.

Ok, you get the point. There are different cohorts of Baby Boomers and I think it’s important that we distinguish between the two because our needs are different. We early boomers are the ones that our kids are now concerned about. And we are concerned about our spouses and partners. Our kids are starting to do things for us, just as we did for our parents. They come over and we ask them to do some of the tasks we can no longer do: climb the ladder; move the piece of furniture; carry the heavy bags, etc. because we can’t. If they prefer to drive, I’m fine with that.

That’s not happening for the Gen Jonesers. Not yet at least. So how do we deal with it? Well, it’s not easy. I resent when someone uses the word “aging” in a derogatory way, as some of my younger colleagues do. There’s nothing wrong with aging. and not just as the old joke goes, because it beats the alternative. I’m not trying to be younger. Let me repeat that: I’m not trying to be younger. I embrace that I’m older. And while I hate the fact that I can’t do some things anymore, or have many, many more aches, pains, hurts, and difficulties, I’m in the “older” demographic now.

Not so with Gen Jonesers. Here’s a generalization: They’re trying to hold on to their youth. They’re not happy being lumped with us oldsters. Even AARP and my favorite website for which I’ve written several articles, www.nextavenue.org are aimed at what they call “50+.” Harrumph. Is it all because 60+ sounds so bad? If so, then what are you going to say about 70+?

Do they think that we early boomers are Luddites and don’t use the web? Do they think we don’t spend money? Are you kidding me? We spend more now because we have more. We travel more and go to more exotic and expensive destinations. In fact, the highest paid folks are those that are in their late fifties and early sixties, the older boomers. Our kids are out of college, we now have grandkids whom we shower with gifts. The Gen Jonesers still have kids in college (or rebounded back so they’re living with them). They have less disposable income.

Do you know how wonderful it is to be eligible for Medicare? Do you know how great it feels to get a payment every month from Social Security?

Here’s a brief anecdote: I’m a monitor at a local off-leash dog park. As such, I sometimes have to ask a dog owner to rein in his dog because of over-aggressiveness or for some other infraction like bringing a young child into the park. I can confront the person, which I do respectfully, and know that because I’m older, no young dude is gonna hit or threaten me. It’s not exactly something he’d be proud of that he was able to beat up an old guy. If he doesn’t do what I’m asking, that’s one thing. But I’m not afraid to say something, unlike some of the younger monitors.

So here are my challenges:

  • To AARP, Next Avenue, and all of those who lump baby boomers together with Gen Jonesers: STOP trying to tell us that we should try to be young. That we should fight aging. There are so many wonderful things about getting older.
  • To those of you who are the older boomers: BE PROUD of your age. Take advantage of all the benefits (including those discounts we get). Also, ask your kids to help you out and don’t be embarrassed about asking.
  • To you Gen Jonesers: don’t try to “hold on to your youth” or fight getting older. Fight to maintain your health, your happiness, and your values. Don’t fight age. Teach your kids to value age. And look forward to getting older.

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