The Baby Boomer Generation [Born 1946–1964]
The media has portrayed the Baby Boomer Generation in many lights. With increased educational, financial and social opportunities, the Boomer Generation is often portrayed as a generation of optimism, exploration and achievement. Compared with previous generations, more young adults pursued higher education or relocated away from family to pursue career and educational interests. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, post-war optimism inspired a sense of stability, opportunity and prosperity—values commonly held by the middle class. This was the dawn of space exploration, accessible long-distance travel and prosperity for many Americans. However, with increasing racial tensions in the United States, the emergence of the Vietnam War, as well as the self-exploration and peace movement of the 1960s, the collective identity of the Boomer Generation became more complex.
Though the Boomer Generation saw increasing social and economic equality, they also came of age in a period when the country was frequently torn by differing views on politics, war and social justice. The Baby Boomer Generation witnessed and participated in some of the greatest social changes in the country’s history during the 1960s and 1970s with the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Movement. This generation experienced dramatic shifts in educational, economic and social opportunities.
The face of the workplace began evolving from a fairly racially homogenous, paternalistic environment to one of increased racial and gender diversity. The workplace slowly began to reflect the rapid political and social changes of the nation. This generation coined terms such as the “glass ceiling” and the “equal opportunity workplace” and began using personality profiles to build awareness of how to get along with all co-workers.
Characteristics of Baby Boomer workers
- Individual choice
- Community involvement
- Health and wellness
- Focus on individual choices and freedom
- Adaptive to a diverse workplace
- Positive attitude
- Confidence in tasks
- Emphasize team-building
- Seek collaborative, group decision making
- Avoid conflict
Ethnic and cultural issues/implications
Although this generation was actively involved in promoting equal rights among races and genders, they have not fully realized the goals of their youth. Differences in income and educational levels remain largely unchanged for Baby Boomer cohorts. As Baby Boomers age, these differences in income and personal wealth will become more pronounced, and we might anticipate greater poverty levels among minority members.
Generational perspectives of the EAP
The Baby Boomer Generation has driven the development of EAP services over the last 20 years. While early EAP programs were rooted in providing support for alcohol recovery in the workplace, services have expanded dramatically in the last 20 years to include assistance with work stress, family issues, assessment for depression and anxiety, as well as grief and loss issues. Moreover, legal, financial and work/life services have been incorporated into many EAP services with the aim of assisting employees on a variety of topics.
Common EAP issues
- Savings and debt management
- Retirement planning
Although Baby Boomers often are portrayed as the postwar generation of opportunity and optimism, many members worry about retirement and have failed to adequately prepare for the transition from work to retirement. Unchecked spending prompted by the economic boom of the 1980s and the materialistic greed personified by Gordon Gecko in the movie “Wall Street” represents the caricature of the Boomer gathering and spending real and “paper” wealth. High secured and unsecured debt balances, college tuitions, elder care and medical expenses are taking their toll on the financial futures of this group of employees. Recent market fluctuations, as well as debate over the future of Social Security, have increased anxiety among this population. The income disparities that exist between racial and gender groups are particularly pronounced in this group of employees, contributing to concerns about financial security.
Many Boomers are planning to remain in the workforce beyond age 65 for various reasons, if for nothing more than a consistent income and a sense of identity. For a generation that defined sense of self by what one did for a living, addressing the social-emotional issues of retirement are as critically important as the financial issues of retirement. With advancements in medical technologies and overall improved health, Boomers have the opportunity to retire into leisure pursuits or another career. Helping Boomers prepare for this transition will be an important role for the EAP in the years to come.
- Estate planning, wills and trusts
- Long-term care
- Issues of aging relatives
The legal issues for this generation are more likely to be related to estate and retirement planning. Employees who become caretakers for aging relatives also need to address the long-term care and estate issues of their loved ones. Issues include powers of attorney, shared banking accounts, transfer of assets and so forth. The development of such documents and legal protections can be complicated when the caretaking employee lives in a different geographic area or state.
Divorce continues to be an issue as couples reassess their relationships after children move away and their role as parents changes.
Many Boomers are faced with the challenge of raising their children and at the same time caring for their aging parents. Not only are families choosing to have children later in life than previous generations, but medical advancements in some areas have expanded the life expectancy of aging parents. Some Boomers are the primary caretakers for their children, grandchildren and/or aging parents. Because this generation was more likely to relocate from their immediate families for job opportunities, caring for aging parents often is done at a distance. This balancing act presents a myriad of stressors, challenges and dilemmas for many Boomers, which can be felt as financial and marital stress and may impact the workplace through absenteeism, performance issues and fatigue.
- Lifestyle issues
- Chronic illness
“Old age” is getting pushed back farther and farther. Whereas this generation once said “never trust anyone over 30,” they now proclaim that 50 is the new 30! Medical and cosmetic advancements have helped Baby Boomers delay the aging process. Unfortunately, aging—like taxes—is one thing we all can count on.
The health consequences of lifestyle choices may now be appearing for this generation. Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, overweight and obesity may now be playing a more significant role in the lives of these employees. Better detection and screenings for breast, colon and prostate cancers have resulted in better treatment options earlier in the disease process, and more employees may be receiving care for these illnesses. This group of employees is very receptive to prevention programs designed to minimize health risk.
Mental health issues
- Self -esteem
Unlike the previous generation, Baby Boomers are more likely to seek behavioral health care services. This generation will readily use mental health services and psychiatric medications. While stigma continues to exist, particularly for men in seeking treatment, women are more likely to pursue counseling and/or psychiatric medications. This generation is known for pursuing activities and spending money on self-improvement services. Mental health services framed in the context of self-improvement and coaching will help to improve access to mental health services.
Substance abuse issues
Unaddressed alcoholism will progress in the disease state, and employees of this generation may just begin to feel the physical effects of this addiction, including liver problems. The aches and pains of aging and postsurgical pain relief may result in more frequent prescriptions for pain medications and the risks associated with addictive medications.
- Prescription drug issues