For the past few years, people have shared with me how the Millennials, the generation of workers born roughly between 1980 and 2000 who are now are entering the workforce in droves, are changing the definition of young. Some have called this group of an estimated 90 million people to be “adultolescents,” half adults and half adolescents. But being a former history teacher, I tire quickly of hearing that young people are changing the world. This has been said of every generation by an older generation since the birth of time.
What interests me more is the transformation of the definition of “young” that is being put forth by the Baby Boomers. With America’s 78 million Baby Boomers approaching their “sunset years,” and controlling 70% of the wealth in the United States, they still have tremendous power to influence society. From their perspective, 60 is the new 40. And with the rise of technology and medical intervention, this can actually become close to reality.
Furthermore with more and more aging Baby Boomers having stable incomes and the ability to participate in activities formerly reserved for a younger demographic, this group does not see a rocking chair and a nursing home as the next step in their journey. Nor are they interested in moving into a retirement community for shuffleboard or a daily round of golf. Instead, they are seeking an active and “younger” lifestyle with many adventures and activities. They also want to do these younger activities within a community setting of like minded people. Therefore, we will continue to see the rise in what developers are calling “affinity housing”, i.e. niche communities where boomers can opt to grow old along side others who share a specific interest. For example, this could look like a planned community for music-industry retirees or a community that is designed for retired professors. There will be multiple variations on this theme. Remember this is the generation that created 12 different versions of Coca-Cola. To me, it appears as if many want to retire and relive their college years with classes, seminars, and a diverse set of group activities.
Given the above, our challenge as leaders is quite unique. On the one hand, we will have one large group of people who will not retire until they are pass 70 years of age, some by choice and some by economic necessity, and others who will leave the work force as quickly as possible to reclaim the glory days of their younger years. Whichever is the case, the definition of young is changing and we as leaders need to know that 60 year olds acting like 40 year olds or younger, and 20 year olds acting like teenagers is going to make the work place and the market place quite interesting in the years to come.