Mon, Dec 22, 2014 - Page 9 News List

It is all over now: the baby boom generation has come of age

By Brigitte Miksa

Carlos Barientos III was born at 6:45pm on Dec. 31, 1964, a few kilometers northwest of Honolulu. This year he is set to turn 50, quite possibly making him the last member of the US “baby boom” to do so.

The generation that once seemed to define for the world the energy, excitement and even irritating nature of youth will officially be “old” — even if, some might say, not entirely grown up, but what does this really mean?

The “baby boomers” are the generation that grew up in the US, in particular, but also in Europe, Canada, Australia and elsewhere, after World War II, when rapid economic growth was accompanied by rising birth rates.

Those born during that 19-year period — from 1945 to 1964 — were part of the largest, most prosperous, best-educated and, some might say, most indulged and indulgent generation that the world has ever seen.

From sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll to the civil rights movements to the dotcom and housing bubbles, for better or worse, the boomer generation has shaped modern society. With one of its younger members currently in the White House, and others at Downing Street, the Elysee Palace, and the German Chancellery, it is set to continue to do so for years to come.

However, there are stark differences within the boomer generation. Early boomers — beginning with Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, whose birth one second past midnight on New Year’s Day, 1946, has made her a minor celebrity — grew up surrounded by the hippie counterculture, the music of the Beatles and Bob Dylan, and the Vietnam War.

By contrast, Barientos and the other boomers of 1964 grew up playing video games and listening to disco music — or, if their tastes were closer to those of Barientos, the heavier sounds of Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy and Van Halen. In fact, Barientos, who owns and run his own guitar shop with his father, does not readily identify himself as a baby boomer; he feels closer to the “Generation X” that followed.

However, Barientos’ interests are not all that set him apart from the likes of Casey-Kirschling. While many of the early US baby boomers are now comfortably retired, enjoying the benefits of Medicare, social security and tax-free individual retirement arrangement disbursements, Barientos is still in his prime — and concerned about his retirement.

By 2031, when Barientos and the rest of the baby boomers are retired, more than 20 percent of the US population are set to be at least 65 years old, compared with only 13 percent in 2010.

As a result, the old-age dependency ratio — the number of people aged 65 or over relative to the working-age population — is set to rise from one in five to one in three.

This would intensify pressure on state pension funds and healthcare systems considerably.

“It’s not like my dad’s generation, where you worked a job for a certain amount of time, saved some money and then stopped working,” Barientos said. “We just do what we can ... and keep moving forward.”

Not that Barientos would swap places with his father.

“I think I’ve been blessed in comparison to previous generations,” he said.

“Even compared to older members of my generation, I haven’t had to fight for my freedom. I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. I’ve been able to benefit from the hard work of people before me,” he added.

Definitions of the post-war baby boom vary by nation.

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