— By Andra Abramson, Digital Content Strategist | November 8, 2019
If you’ve been on the internet lately (and if you are a Boomer, 70% of you have), you’ve likely seen the phrase “OK Boomer” in gifs, memes, and videos racing across your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed. Don’t think you can escape it by going offline either. There are “OK Boomer” sweatshirts, photo ops, and even a song. So yeah, the term is everywhere, but what does “OK Boomer” actually mean?
The “OK Boomer” phenomena began as a reaction to an ageist video in which an older man accused younger people of not wanting to grow up. The video inspired the phrase "OK Boomer" as a similarly ageist retaliation and as a way to rebuke anyone the user believes is showing outdated thinking and old-fashioned ideas. While the term was originally used by younger generations as a putdown toward older people (Boomers, obviously), it has now expanded to include anyone who is perceived as being out-of-touch, uncaring about the environment, and unwilling to think beyond their own narrow view of the world.
But are Boomers really who younger people think they are?
Stereotypes about older adults abound. You’ve seen them, we’ve seen them. Granny rocking on her porch in her slippers and housedress. Grandpa angrily telling kids to “get off his lawn.” Etc. etc. etc. Is it possible that Boomers (read: anyone older than the person throwing the phrase around) are getting a bad rap?
As the leading marketing agency reaching the 50+ consumer, we know a lot about the lifestyle and preferences of mature adults, including Boomers. We know what makes them tick, their likes and dislikes, their quirky habit of actually calling you on the telephone. That’s why, as this term trends, our team of Gen X’ers and Millennials felt the need to stick up for our Boomer friends and point out that Boomers have a lot to teach us young’uns about the very things they are accused of being against. For example, Boomers have been accused of not being savvy about climate change, but these are the people who grew up with the very things that will help fight climate change, including reusable bottles (milkmen, ahem), hand-me-downs, and walking both ways to school uphill in a snowstorm, instead of getting in the gas guzzling SUV.
All of this bring us to our myth busting expedition of the week:
Getting back to that “walking uphill both ways in a snowstorm” thing…as this infographic clearly shows, Boomers are leading the way when it comes to conservation of natural resources with the best scores compared to their Gen X and Millennial counterparts for everything from using the least amount of water for showering and running the dishwasher to using energy efficient appliances to recycling old electronics. In fact, Boomers are the most likely generation to recycle. Yeah, we said it. And hey Gen X, Boomers are just as likely as you are to compost. Remember when you were a kid and your dad would say, “Hey, turn out that light, do you think we have stock in the electric company????” Yeah, that guy is probably a Boomer now. SMH. Kids today.
This is the big one. Those throwing the “OK Boomer” put down around often claim that Boomers don’t contribute to making the world a better place. We’re happy to give you a big “Ok Boomer,” if you are someone who thinks like this. The truth is that Boomers volunteer on a regular basis and rack up more service hours than any other generation. 2.2 billion hours, to be exact. Boomers are generous with their money as well. In fact, 62.5% of Boomers donated $25 or more to charity in the past year. Boomers are actually such a reliable and hardworking bunch when it comes to volunteering that the government runs a special website to help them find volunteer opportunities. Check it out at www.nationalservice.gov. And if millennials and Gen Z’ers can get off their phones long enough to check it out, they’ll find Boomers rocking the tool belt to build houses for Habitat for Humanity, giving tours in museums and national parks, and even roughing it in the Peace Corps. Double dog dare you to do that.
Yeah, we get it. It’s fun to imagine the old people on their porches in their house dresses drinking tea out of tiny cups. However, the reality is way more interesting. According to Eventbrite, Boomers attend an average of 24.5 events every single year. That’s even more than Millennials. Get this picture in your head: People over the age of 50 are out there doing the stuff you’ve only dreamed about trying, including surfing and running marathons and flying planes…I mean, check out this article from Climbing Magazine about senior mountain climbers. Oh, and we should also mention that Boomers are just as likely to be at a rock concert as Millennials. Make way, that Boomer is about to do some stage surfing!
OK, maybe grandpa IS sitting in front of the TV but be honest, so are you. If you just tried to “OK Boomer” us with a “Yeah, but I’m streaming on Netflix and Grandpa is watching cable,” we’re going to “OK Boomer” right back at you. Research from Think with Google shows that 68% of Boomers say they watch YouTube videos as entertainment. In addition, just like you, Boomers are also fixing stuff with help from YouTube instructional videos rather than the actual printed instructions that come with the product. In fact, Boomers are out there learning all kinds of new skills from YouTube videos, and we predict that you will soon be calling THEM to ask why your new robot will only answer to your dog.
“Ok Boomer,” you keep thinking that. Yes, they may need a bit of help getting their devices working and they may occasionally get frustrated, but they are embracing new technology. In fact, most Boomers aren’t just OK with technology, they understand the improvements it has brought to society. Checkout this juicy nugget: A recent Pew Research poll showed that 95% of people over the age of 50 have a mobile phone and nearly 80% have a smart phone. You should also know that 70% of seniors are connected to the internet and when it comes to younger seniors, the number is even higher with 82% of 65-69 year olds using the internet. So don’t picture grandma sitting on her couch with a big cord leading from her phone to the wall. She’s out there in the world on her smartphone, googling stuff just like you are. You’ll probably also find her on Facebook, playing games, and swiping right on Tinder.
Now that we’ve proven that Boomers aren’t really who you think they are, how about reaching out to a Boomer or two to find out who they really are. We suggest you ask them to get a bite to eat and spend some time discussing solutions to the generational gap that has unfortunately grown up all around us. Boomers have a ton of insight and experience that they can bring to the conversation and, unfortunately, they are far more likely than younger people to be lonely or isolated. So that’s our rant of the day. We’re checking out to go hiking with Grandpa. Cheers.