Not long ago, Contributing Editor Michael J. Weiss noticed that dinner parties he attended with his Baby Boom friends began taking a curious turn. â€œThe women wanted to show off their wrinkle-free foreheads thanks to Botox,â€? he says. â€œThe guys wanted to talk about how they'd scored free samples of Viagra from their doctors. Having done neither, I suddenly felt older than dirt.â€?
But rather than curl up under the covers, Weiss set out to explore what his Baby Boom peers â€” turning 50 at the rate of seven every minute â€” are doing to look, act and feel younger. According to an AARP survey, no less than half of Boomers are depressed that they're aging, and nearly 1 in 5 admits to actively resisting it. As Weiss reports in â€œChasing Youth,â€? on page 34, Boomers have created a virtual industry centered on defying age. This year alone, U.S. consumers will spend more than $30 billion on anti-aging products, according to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Says Weiss: â€œHair coloring, health club memberships, personalized vitamins â€” Boomers have opened their wallets and minds to whatever's available in this modern-day quest for the Fountain of Youth.â€?
For Weiss, an unrepentant Boomer himself, his research into his contemporaries' obsession raised even more intriguing questions about how they're changing the notion of middle age. â€œWe're youthing-down the midlife stage of our lives,â€? he says. â€œMy parents at age 50 would no more have thought of running a marathon than jumping off a bridge. Yet 40 percent of the runners in the New York City Marathon last year were between 40 and 54 years old.â€?
Of course, part of this fixation with youth is simply Boomers' nostalgia for their coming-of-age in the free-spirited 1960s. For a generation that declared â€œnever trust anyone over 30,â€? it's tough to admit that they're only a short sprint away from retirement. While previous generations entered middle age with little fanfare, many Boomers appear to be trying to create a new model of adulthood, a midlife phase concentrated on renewal, Weiss says. And just as they've done in every life phase they've entered, this generation of 78 million people will shatter conventional notions of what it means to age in America.
To encourage continuing dialogue about Boomers' influence on some of the major trends shaping the markets of tomorrow, this month, American Demographics introduces a new breakfast series â€” Inside AD. The series is our attempt to connect with readers on critical demographic and trend topics facing businesses. The inaugural event, to be held on October 9, will focus on â€œBusting Boomer Myths.â€? (For more information, call 917-981-2936.) One myth we're certain to debunk: that this generation is fading quietly into its twilight years. As Weiss observes, â€œBoomers have always believed that getting older is for other people, like our parents, for instance. We'd prefer sex, drugs and rock â€˜nâ€™ roll; you know, Elvis in his thin, younger days.â€?