Ba da baby boomers

In the post World War II years of 1946 to 1964, the United States experienced a population growth of a size never before recorded.

Before the baby boom and during the war, couples had, on average, 2.5 children. During the boom, the average was about 3.5 children, and families with seven or eight children were not uncommon. That resulted in 76 million babies being born in less than two decades.

“Babies were our business, and the country reinvented themselves to accommodate,” says Bruce Clark, co-founder of Age Wave. “Babies were selling everything. The way we built our communities … moving out of downtown to suburbs, even the way we laid out our communities.”

Just as the boomers transformed the way this nation looked at child-raising and community planning, now they will change the way we look at aging.

“Every eight seconds, a boomer gets a surprising invite to the AARP,” says Clark. “The center of gravity is shifting as the boomers get older.”

Thirty percent of Americans — 80 million of us — are between the ages of 39 and 57. Clark refers to this group as the 80-million-pound elephant because, as has been demonstrated before, “Whatever this group wants or needs will be served.”

And this generation, which challenged businesses to accommodate its needs when it was younger, is going to demand even more as its members age.

“The boomers are about to get sick,” says Clark. “So far, with most boomers being under 50, insurance companies have gotten a free ride. It was a safe population to insure. But post-50 is where you run into chronic disease, and this population starts heading to doctors and hospitals.”

Soon this population will hit a critical mass. The question is, how will the health care industry change and adapt itself to these needs? Insurance companies are going to have to be proactive in understanding the specific issues surrounding the aging of boomers.

“What are the defining characteristics of this group?” asks Clark. “They demand convenience and excellent service. Companies will have to listen to what they are saying.”

Regardless of whether you are part of the baby boomer generation, this issue will affect us all, especially employers.

“Employers have to take this one on,” says Clark. “This needs to become a national priority.” How to reach: Impact Presentation Group, [email protected]; Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield,