Alert
Close

Earn Double Rewards Points: Take the AARP Social Security True/False Quiz

AARP The Magazine

How the Boomers Saved Everything

Yes, we’re spoiled rotten. We’re self-absorbed. And it seems like we’ll never shut up. But the boomers made a better world for everyone else. You’re welcome

Boomer Icons-Leave it to Beaver-James Brown-Jimi Hendrix-John Lennon-Yoko Ono-JFK-John Belushi

The boomers are a generation that changed the world. — Sean McCabe

En español | We're the largest, richest, best-educated generation of Americans, the favored children of a strong, confident and prosperous country. Or, as other generations call us, spoiled brats. Born between 1946 and 1964, the 76 million boomers reaped all the benefits of the postwar period's extraordinary economic growth.

Stay in the Know on the Go: Get the New AARP ePubs iPad App!

We were dizzy with our aspirations. We'd be rock stars. We'd be spiritual avatars. We'd be social activists. We'd be billionaires. No, better yet, we'd be all those things at the same time. (Steve Jobs came close.)

Every time opportunity knocked, we let it in, even when it should have been locked out for decency's sake. And behold the boomers' remarkable experiments with prosperity — the dot-com bubble, the housing bubble, the enormous financial bubble that's still got the nation trying to get fiduciary gum out of its hair.

And now the boomers run the world. The youngest members of the generation that decided to be young forever are turning 50. That's the age of maximum privilege and power. We're giving everybody orders. The oldest boomers are enrolled in Medicare, collecting Social Security and receiving tax-free Roth IRA disbursements. Plus, American life expectancy has increased by almost 12 years since the baby boom was born, so it doesn't just seem like we'll never go away. From President Obama, Rand Paul and Jeff Bezos at one end of our age cohort to Hillary Clinton, Rush Limbaugh and Cher at the other, we cannot be escaped or avoided (or shushed).

But running the world means taking responsibility for it. The boomers have been good at taking things: Mom's car without permission, drugs, umbrage at the establishment, draft deferments, advantage of the sexual revolution, and credit for the civil rights and women's liberation movements that rightly belongs to prior generations. The one thing that can be left in plain sight without us putting our sticky mitts on it is responsibility. Ask our therapists. Or the parents we haven't visited at the extended-care facility.

The world is being run by irresponsible spoiled brats. And yet the world started to get better as soon as the boomers took over. That was in the late 1970s, when we were old enough for our deepest beliefs, our most cherished values and our unique vision of the future to have a profound and permanent effect on American life. To be precise, we took over on July 28, 1978, the day Animal House was released.

Things have been more fun since we elected Senator Blutarsky. Sometimes too much fun. The boomers can be scolded for promiscuous sex, profligate use of illegal intoxicants, and other behavior that didn't turn out to be healthy. But somebody had to do the research. Somebody had to be the guinea pig. And, running around in the sex-drugs-and-rock 'n' roll wheel, we had a good time while it lasted.

Next page: Reagan, China, Jon Stewart and a list of boomer milestones. »

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

TODAY'S NEWS

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Downloadable mobile app from AARP® Roadside Assistance from Allstate.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.