Rise of the Superboomers

Posted on September 9, 2014 by Eleanor McKenzie
Mature friends laughing together

Harold MacMillan’s famous 1957 speech, in which he said that Britons had “never had it so good,” could well apply to the over 50s in 2014. The media have labelled us “The Superboomers” and it very much looks to me like we’re the generation that will change social perceptions of growing old.

Two research reports; one by consultants The Future Laboratory for Chinese technology giants Huawei and the other by the U.S. TODAY show, come to the same conclusions: the 50+ generation is wealthier, healthier and a high percentage of them feel they’re just getting started, rather than slowing to a halt. We’ve come a long way from the gold watch at 60 and taking up gardening to fill the day. We’re more likely to be opening a chain of gardening centres or florist franchises.

The Huawei report suggests that the Superboomers are fired by a sense of revolution and rebellion. Unlike the pre-war generations, we’re much less constrained by what people think. I’d say that’s mostly thanks to the Swinging Sixties, which touched all the Superboomers to some extent. Even the Boomers who have just turned 50 in 2014, have a sense that the 60s is the ‘touchstone’ of our generation.

You’ll be delighted to know that although we’re only 25% of the British population, we control 75% of its wealth. No wonder we spend more on beauty products, travel, clothes and leisure products than any other age group. Did you know that gym membership age peaks at 66 years? Or, that people in their 60s go to the gym more than any other age group and 20 times more than teenagers? No surprise there; they’re all sleeping through the day!

 

two ladies, light exercise

 

Indeed, some British fashion brands are turning their backs on youth and turning to older models. While grey hair is being reclaimed as “hip” and a sign of an age-defiant attitude. Our self-perception is different to that of our parents. We don’t need to hide our age with hair dye if we don’t want—although many of us do and that’s not because we’re scared of age—we just want a different look. Dame Helen Mirren (60 something) turned up at an awards ceremony with a pink wash through her blonde locks. So there!

The other important piece of information that the TODAY research turned up is that we’re also much more chilled out than people in their 30s and 40s. We have a more realistic attitude and we know when not to “sweat the small stuff.” As the report says, if you’re not the CEO of a company when you reach 50, you probably realise you’re not going to be. Most importantly, you know your life is just fine without being the CEO.

Even those in their 50s who are divorced and have money problems, and who admit that life has not turned out quite as they envisaged, claim that they feel a lot better than they expected. We’re more likely to have confidence that “things will get better,” as one 53-year-old said. That confidence only comes with age and 68% of respondents said they felt much more confident in their 50s than at a younger age. Over 50% also said they felt more confident about their appearance.

We don’t try to pass ourselves off as younger. We know how we look and what our limitations are and we don’t try to fight it. We adapt and make the most of what we’ve got. Fashion for both sexes in their 50s and 60s is more stylish and younger than when my mother was the same age. We no longer have to settle for tweed, twin-sets and elasticated waists.

The Superboomers are also pretty happy with their relationships with spouses and kids. Some 75% of the TODAY survey respondents said they were happy with their relationship with their spouse or partner. For some it may be a second marriage, but the statistic suggests that in our 50s, we know what we want and we know how to compromise.

So, we’re changing the face of ‘Age’. Tom Savigar of The Future Laboratory agrees and says: “The Superboomer is redefining what it means to be old in British culture.” I remember a T-shirt slogan from my teens: “We are the people our parents warned us about.” Oh yes, we are the revolution. I hope you’re enjoying it!

 

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.