Baby Boomers want social connection but generally have fewer children and are less likely to be married or connected to a religious group than previous generations.
Living with longstanding chronic disease contributes to complications as Baby Boomers age.
Many Baby Boomers use social media or go to a health club to socialize, and either avenue could provide accountability for an active lifestyle.
People born between 1944 to 1965 represent a significant portion of the patient population. But not all “Baby Boomers” are alike. Understanding the unique concerns, characteristics, and values of this age group isn’t easy since they’re one of the largest and most diverse generations ever.
Economic status, cultural background, family dynamics, and gender account for many differences among individual Baby Boomers. Nonetheless, some universal physical and social aspects of aging serve as unifying factors across the cohort. Rather than trying to stereotype this eclectic group of Americans, taking the time to learn what’s important to each patient will give you the insight to best meet their needs.
Challenges Baby Boomer patients face
Baby Boomers are in a stage of life where they often juggle several demands while adjusting to big changes.
Many boomers are caregiving for one or more family members, such as a spouse, sibling, elderly parent, or adult child with disabilities.
Boomers overall have had fewer children than parents of earlier generations. They’re also less likely to be currently married or have a religious affiliation, which may leave them with fewer supports.
Your Baby Boomer patients may struggle with tough choices around retirement and the impact of career changes on their social life, finances, healthcare coverage, and living situation. While some Baby Boomers have a deeper focus on health and wellness than earlier generations, the majority of today’s older adults have also lived for decades with obesity and chronic diseases. Unfortunately, complications can mean these conditions take an increasingly significant toll with each passing year.
The combined effect of shrinking social supports and greater rates of inactivity, diabetes, and hypertension put Baby Boomers at risk for depression, loneliness, and cognitive decline. Therefore, it’s critical to screen for psychosocial and physical factors that contribute to progressive health problems when caring for this generation.
What Baby Boomers want
Baby Boomers have witnessed pivotal shifts in society and technology over the course of their lifetimes. Overall, this group has higher rates of education which influence their lifestyle choices and health behaviors.
There’s a shared desire for social relationships which Baby Boomers seek out in various places. Those who remain partnered express the desire for continued intimacy as they select long-term care settings. Additionally, studies show that Baby Boomers spend just as much time on Facebook as Millennials. However, contrary to their younger counterparts, Baby Boomers with active in-person social lives use social media less. Instead, social media in this age group primarily helps compensate for loneliness or isolation.
As they approach retirement, many Baby Boomers are in search of ways to stay healthy and connected to others. Some of their preferred fitness activities include walking, stair climbing, aquatic exercise, Tai Chi, and stationary cycling. In addition, Boomers who join a health club typically maintain long-term memberships which they make good use of by visiting more frequently than members of other age groups.
If you have Baby Boomer patients who are sedentary, they may have peers who participate in walking groups, fitness classes, or a traditional gym who could pull them in to start a new habit and connect them to a community as well. You could also suggest online groups and social networks that provide accountability for regular exercise.
What this means for you
Getting to know more about your older patients’ social lives and technology use can help leverage their motivations and resources for healthy aging. Members of the Baby Boomer generation tend to have a lot on their plates, but many are also well-resourced in education and other skills. Tapping into their desires to be active and engaged can help ward off loneliness and chronic diseases that can catch up with people as they age.