19 November, 2010

The boomers are going back to school

Melbourne Herald Sun, Friday November 19, 2010

Baby boomers have taken an armchair ride through life. They've had everything - money, jobs, the youth revolution, drugs, rock 'n' roll, free love and lots of it. Now they want the education that they never needed to get in the first place.

This dominant demographic was spawned from the loins of returning soldiers at the end of World War II and the decade after it. There were lots of them, which is why the media picked the phrase "baby boom".

The world was rebuilding so there was plenty of work. They could walk out of school and straight into a job so there was not a lot of incentive for advanced learning. Money was plentiful, houses were cheap and they quickly set up their own home.

Meanwhile their belief that they knew best, and to never trust anyone over 30, created a noisy revolution. They marched against the Vietnam war; in France they rioted against authority. Their soundtrack was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and a hundred other bands whose music you still hear on the radio every day, today.

The necessary accompaniment was drugs and sex. Marijuana and acid were easy to get and not so legally constricted. The pill stopped babies, antibiotics cured VD, and AIDS did not exist, so sex ran riot.

They created new fashions - long hair, braided jackets, necklaces, high heels, and that was just the boys.

The girls wore mini skirts, burned their bras and demanded equality.

Work came easily so they changed jobs at the drop of a hat. Those who bothered to stay were quickly promoted.

They waited longer to have babies, and less of them, so the next arrivals - Generation X - were always overshadowed by their domineering parents.

They generated the movie stars we still flock to visit today. Ever noticed how many baby boomer films there are? Like Reds with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, where all the heroes are over 60. Or TV shows like The Old Guys, and New Tricks with once-were-stars Dennis Waterman and James Bolam.

There's a whole new market out there for oldies, while 20 years ago you would scarcely see an over-40 on the screen.

Chemists are now awash with anti-ageing creams anti-oxidants. Motorised wheel-chairs are getting flashier.

Our boomers are by now rather bored with life as it plays and suddenly they are hankering after that education that they so casually tossed aside 45 years ago.

Even as colleges cope with a decline in foreign students, there is a surge in older people looking for education.

Locals enrolled into postgraduate programs have grown by 13 per cent, with master's degrees jumping by 18 per cent.

A report this week from researchers IBISWorld expects the leap in numbers to soften the pain of the import losses. In fact they are predicting $3 billion improvement over the next five years.

Baby boomers who have taken early retirement - either voluntarily or through redundancies - are studying business, commerce and the hospitality industry, as well as advanced professional development.

Others are taking their leisure in short courses at TAFEs. Encouraged by the reality boom on TV, shows like MasterChef, The Biggest Loser and Dancing With the Stars, many boomers have sought education to expand on a personal skill or hobby. So they are enrolling for study in the creative arts, cooking, health and wellbeing, and personal development.

They might have had an armchair through life, but the boomers aren’t about to sit back in one over their twilight years - they have no intention of going gently into that good night.

(Marketeer confesses to being a boomer himself.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ray, an excellent piece. Most boomers will bop till they drop, all the best,
Richard Neville