People born between 1946 and 1964 are known as "Baby Boomers" and this generation within our population is disproportionally large. Picture a basketball moving through a garden hose and you might get a decent representation of this age group among others. It's my parents generation, the generation in which it was actually true that you could work hard, go to college and pretty much know that you would find a good job. They have been a very successful generation in terms of finance. This group, 76 million baby's born during those 18 years, hold over 80% of the personal finance assets and represent over 50% of consumer spending and 80% of leisure travel spending. They are, and have been for decades, the ad mans dream demographic. This basketball in the garden hose has been the target of advertisers since adolescence. Marketing has wisely focused on and catered to this enormous chunk of humanity that holds so much discretionary cash. As the ball comes nearer and nearer the end of the hose there are major changes coming.
This population is now mostly retired or nearing retirement.(of course in most cases this will be a lay-off rather than proper retirement since...well, things are changing) Their kids are said to be the first generation in American history that have not surpassed their parents financially. Honestly that's a bit of an understatement since many of us of this generation know that our assets are borrowed and our debt and poverty are very real. My generation has seen many who either never leave home or end up moving back in with their baby boomer parents because they have not been able to float themselves financially. They are the hidden homeless and they are hiding under their parents wing. Baby boomers are carrying the weight of their children in many cases. Also the parents of the baby boomers who are still alive will not be for long. They are reaching an age where they really do need assistance in ordinary living. This means they will either move in with their boomer children or find a nice ALF which in most cases will need to be financed by the boomers. As the health of boomers declines do to their own aging and need for medicines, their parents need assistance and frankly so do their kids, boomers are loosing that coveted discretionary cash that the ad men have drooled over for decades. Things are changing.
My generation knows that much of what our boomer parents taught us growing up is just untrue for the world that we live in. Get good grades, they said, so you can go to a good college and then get a good job. We swallowed this sage materialistic wisdom with dreams of wealth and comfort only to find ourselves chained to student loans, working in coffee shops and laughing about our useless degrees. We have grown bitter and question the very value structure that would want to get a good job and make a lot of money so that we can just buy a bunch a crap that we don't need while millions on this globe die daily from a lack of basic needs like food and clean water. We are the generation that is now occupying wall street to express our anger. We are also the generation eating opiates by the ton! Its not good. It was a mistake for our parents to raise us for the world that they grew up in. We don't live in the world that they grew up in! As our generation continues to have and rear children we must learn to look ahead and forecast the future because our kids will not grow up in the world that we did either. Things are changing to fast and if we are not preparing ourselves and our future generations for the world that is coming rather than the world as it has been we are only repeating the mistake of which we are a product.
So what world will we and our children live in? I am growing more curious about this question every day. Here are a few things that I think we can count on here in the states. As baby boomers retire and begin to draw social security there will not be a sufficient work force to support it. As they begin to reach an age that requires assisted living their children will mostly not have the means to help them live in an ALF. The economy will continue to decline under the pressure. As they die off the US will no longer be a majority white people. This can only mean a long overdue upheaval to our systems which perpetuate white supremacy. The already laughable "debate" about climate change will fade away as we must learn to deal with the reality itself. We have abused our world for too long and have not fully appreciated that a self correcting eco-system might one day bite back. Everything will change as we scramble to correct decades of damage that supported the financial prosperity that the boomers enjoyed. Things are changing and we must change in anticipation of the coming reality in which we will either live or die.
All of this reflection has implications for the church. We must re-imagine the work which we have been called to. What does it mean to love this world with the heart of God? How might we have the tools to lead the way in this coming generation? Are we preparing ourselves and our disciples for the changes. Have we simplified our lives so as to avoid being overwhelmed by an economic collapse? Are we pursuing racial reconciliation and an end to white male supremacy within our own organizations? Are we changing our lifestyles as an act of repentance to better love and steward the earth itself? Are we doing our part to curb consumption and move toward being producers instead. Are we preparing ourselves to care for the overwhelmingly large population of boomers that will need our love and support over the next few decades?
Keep you eyes on the horizon. We all must learn to be visionaries. We have to be imaginative. And with all the coming troubles and challenges we must learn to be a people of celebration and joy! We need to learn to party better, harder and more often...because Jesus is with us. Though we walk through a valley or the shadow of death, fear no evil.