When I was young, and assumed social mores were etched in stone, I feared growing old.
Back then, “old” meant about 55, my parents’ age when they and many peers began spending winters in Miami. During our annual visits, observing the unchanging routine of their days — poolside gossip, shopping, reading, TV and dinners out — I was chagrined at the disparity between their delight in their good fortune and my revulsion at a similar destiny.
I am now old, with no prospect in sight of a Florida condo — or even a Montreal one. That’s because my parents were the “old old”, while my generation is the “new old.” I’m not exactly a Boomer, because the usual definition cites the oldest Boomers as post-war and I was born mid-war, but, like my entire cohort, I have been strongly influenced by Boomer attitudes and behaviours.
More precisely, I ama“Zoomer.” Zoomers are “Boomers with zip.” The neologism was coined by the ultimate Zoomer, Moses Znaimer, born in the same year as I — 1942 — who has almost singlehandedly rebranded the aging process through his visionary media exploits: City TV, MuchMusic, Bravo, Space, Fashion Television and, since 2008, Zoomer Magazine, the dominant print medium for the 50-
plus demographic in Canada.
I thought I understood Boomerhood. Turns out my knowledge was superficial. I’ve just read The New Old: How the Boomers are Changing Everything … Again.
The author, David Cravit, is the executive vice-president of ZoomerMedia in charge of sales and marketing. It is not only his job to understand this demographic, but his passion: this book is an entertaining and enlightening read that goes far beyond the obvious statistics and data. It explains why my parents considered a Miami condo the Holy Grail and I see it as Death’s waiting room.
All of what follows is “in general”; none of us — with the possible exception of Moses Znaimer — meets all the criteria. Some of us have remained “old old.” I’m mostly “new old” with fat streaks of “old old” here and there.
Boomers and Zoomers rule! We are responsible for 50% of all consumer spending; we constitute 82% of all households with savings or securities worth more than $100,000; and we buy 80% of all health care products. We’re 60% of voters, and although we’re liberal on social issues, we’re small-c conservative on stuff like smaller government, safe streets, and parallel health systems.
And we’re justified in believing we’re going to be around for a looong time. A 60-year-old today has a 50% shot at reaching 90. (Know what? I think the Conservative party may also be in power for a looong time.)
What turns us on? Work, for one thing. Why retire with potentially 30 more years ahead? That describes me and my husband: The thought of retiring appals us both. Look at 65year-old Dolly Parton — still working nine to five.
Another magnificent obsession is our homes. We account for more than half of all remodelling, and more than 60% of the dollars spent on room additions. Rings true: We are moving into a new house this month, more modern and sleek and youthful than the rambling family home we’ve occupied for 30 years.
When we travel, we don’t like those old “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Brussels” tours. Travel must enhance our fitness or expand our minds or souls. I have friends who intend to spend a month in a different city every year. Two others are studying creative writing. Another does medical service abroad. Everyone is into self-discovery and new beginnings.
And sex! Zoomers, especially women, are bold in asking for and getting what they want and deserve.
But it’s health that is uppermost in our minds. Wellness spas are hot. And Google “discount heart surgery”: you’ll get two million hits. Look for Boomer selfishness to end medicare as we know it: if we can’t get the care we want here, we’ll buy it in India.
We love new technology, especially toys that enhance independence, and we have none of the brand loyalty of our parents. We have much in common with our adult children and get along well with them.
You would think that every entrepreneur with a product to sell, every politician with votes to win and every media buying agency with clients to please would be falling over themselves to woo the Zoomer demographic. But most aren’t. They’re pitching to the “youth market” even though “youth” are fewer, poorer, and relatively powerless. The reason they are missing the boat is ridiculously simple, and so is the solution. Read the book to find out.