In terms of what people want, boomers are different from older generations. They use information and media differently. They are much more focused on instant gratification. And they tend not to be as socially engaged as their elders.
But when it comes to needs, there is more similarity across the generations. People 50 and older tend to have two overarching needs: health and health care (which enables them to live independently and well), and financial security. These are constants.
And at an even deeper level—that of values, I think the generations are truly alike. They don’t necessarily use the word, but a common value is a sense of legacy. They care about their children, their grandchildren, and about leaving America a better place than they found it.
Now to return to our earlier point: as agents of social change, we must focus on environmental and individual change.
Our national challenge is to improve the quality of people’s lives while finding ways to keep America’s pension, health care and other systems affordable so they will endure for generations to come. And, we must do this in a way that builds generational equity and fairness.
We all see a clear need to motivate individuals to take more personal responsibility for their own well–being. But we also recognize that strengthening our institutions—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, community service, and education—is more important than ever. These are the foundations to build upon.
As we do this, we must make sure that changes in public policy are aligned with social attitudes and practices. Our nation needs policies and strategies to encourage wealth accumulation, health promotion, opportunities for older workers and support for long-term independence.
None of this will be easy, but all of it is possible. There is a haiku that says: "Problems worthy of attack, prove their worth by attacking back." Those are the kinds of problems we have in front of us. But these problems are surmountable.
I have had a personal goal throughout my career—to make a significant contribution to solving major social problems. I’ll bet you feel the same way.
So let’s be architects of change. Let’s tackle the realities of 2011 and beyond, with new ideas and structures so that we can get the best from all our citizens at every age.
We can help people to understand the choices available, take hold of opportunities, reach their chosen goals, and make the most of their lives, from early youth to the greatest old age. 2011 is imminent. America must prepare to meet it. And, as the influencers of social change, we can lead the charge.
Thanks very much. And now, let’s have a good discussion.