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It’s Time to Say #OKBoomer to the Whole “Rocking Chair” Mentality Thing

— By Andra Abramson, Digital Content Strategist     |     November 14, 2019

Last week I wrote a blog pushing back on the “OK Boomer” controversy I hope you’ve read it. My mom sure did. Pretty soon after publishing the blog, I got this text from her:

First of all, notice that she didn’t call, email, or send snail mail. She sent a text just like any Gen X, Millennial, or Gen Z’er would do. So “OK Boomer” on the whole thing about Boomers not being savvy tech users.

Secondly, Mom can always be counted to say she likes what I’ve written. Thanks, Mom.

And naturally, she was right about the typos. We fixed them.

 

But What I Really Wanted to Discuss Is…

The rest of Mom’s text is about Boomers [Note: references to Boomers in this blog includes all adults born before 1964, the final year of the Boomer generation] still being out there in the workforce. At Immersion Active we are experts in talking to and with people over the age of 50 and we know enough to say “OK Boomer” to people who think Boomers are at home eating soft foods and using their landlines to call their kids to ask them how to set up their VCR. Still, I figured I’d better do a bit of research and find the facts to back up Mom’s claim. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Mom is right, as usual.

Boomers in the Workforce

As I’ve mentioned, younger folks often picture older adults in stereotypical ways. We might think of them as rocking the day away on their front porches, or playing cards in their 55+ communities, or swinging golf clubs in plaid shorts and knee socks (Guilty!). In reality those stereotypes are likely to earn you a big, fat “OK Boomer!” Instead, for many Boomers, their reality is more like a typical workday, complete with commutes to a workplace, meetings, lunch dates, and a paycheck.

In fact, according to a report from the Pew Research Center, the majority of all Boomers are still on the job, and for those on the younger end of their generational scale, as many as two-thirds are still in the labor force. What’s more, those still in the labor force are more likely to be professionals, such as accountants or lawyers(like my mom😉).Which means many times the most experienced and highly-regarded people—the doctor who trains the other doctors, for example—are actually Boomers. So if you were looking for the person with the most experience to help you with a big problem, you probably want to talk to the Boomer in charge.

And when it comes to the economy, it’s a good thing these Boomers are still in the workforce. You might think having older workers still on the job might make it harder for younger workers to find work, but you’d be mistaken. In fact, the current low unemployment rate means that without Boomers staying on the job, productivity would fall significantly and there simply wouldn’t be enough workers to do all the stuff that needs to get done.

 

Why Do Boomers Keep Working?

 In her text, my mom mentions that Boomers work because they are opposed to the very stereotypes that have started and fueled the “OK Boomer” movement. She stated that older adults want to keep their brains working and keep in touch with what younger folks are up to. But the reality is a bit more complex. Some Boomers are indeed “not ready to retire,” but for many others, they need that paycheck to fund their so-called “retirement years.”

I recently heard an NPR story called Older Americans Are Increasingly Unwilling — Or Unable — To Retire.  One thing this story mentioned is that seniors used to rely on their pensions for retirement. But with many jobs no longer supplying a pension, many people run the risk of not having enough to live on in their senior years, forcing them to keep working longer than they might have otherwise. And since many of the Boomer’s kids and grandkids are struggling to get by financially, the Boomers are stepping up to help. One recent survey cited in the NPR article showed that as many as 50% of seniors are dipping into their retirement savings just to keep those kids afloat.

Yep, that’s right, the Boomers are working to help keep the Millennials in their avocado toast. We’ll just add an OK Boomer to the whole “Boomers are Selfish” meme with that fact.

But Boomers Aren’t All Work and No Play

Seniors today…they don’t just want to live. They want to live large. They’ve put in their time raising kids and grandkids (those same kids and grandkids who are “OK Boomering” them now, BTW) and they still have lots to give to the world. I mean, did you SEE former President Jimmy Carter out there building homes for Habitat for Humanity even after falling and getting a black eye? It sure doesn’t look like Jimmy is spending a lot time in a rocking chair. And if anyone has earned the right to sit on a porch and rock, it’s Jimmy. As one of my co-workers here at Immersion Active pointed out, “I want to stay in bed if I have cramps. He’s out there building houses at 95 with a head wound!”

Speaking of people who are still working, have you seen who some of the biggest rock stars of the decade are? Boomers. There are the guys from Queen, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson…the list goes on and on. And who is attending those concerts. Well, you and I, of course—I mean, we’re cool like that—but also Boomers. If you’ve been to a music festival lately you might have noticed that there are a lot of Boomers there, and they aren’t just there to see the old folks either. According to an article in Elite Daily, 40 percent of Boomers say they attend live events to stay current with the tastes of younger generations. So that’s a lot of Boomers rocking out to Lizzo and Billie Eilish instead of rocking away on their front porches.

 

So I think all of us owe my mom and the other hip Boomers out there a little respect for bucking the rocking chair trend and acting like the vibrant people they are. The next time you hear someone chirp out “OK Boomer,” do us all a favor and think about who the Boomer in the situation really is. After all, as my mom always used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

 

Now, please excuse me. I’ve got to get this blog published so my mom has something to read on her smartphone while she’s waiting for the judge (who is probably also a Boomer) call her case. Don’t worry, if there are any typos, she’ll be sure to let us know.

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