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  • Pamela Froman

Baby Boomers and Generation X

We are defined by our generations. So what are they exactly? Generations are labeled by birth year. There are four major generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millenials, and Generation Z.

We will focus on Baby Boomers and Generation X. What separates Generation X from Baby Boomers? Well, Baby Boomers are known as the hippies who practiced free love in the 60s. However these days they are entering senior-hood. Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. They're currently between 56 - 74 years old and there are 71.6 million in the U.S. Generation Xers are in their 40s, but they were known as flannel-wearing, alternative listeners that focused on Nirvana's music in their heyday. Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980 and are currently around 65.2 million people in the U.S.

Post World War II, Americans were enjoying new-found income, which resulted in a “Baby Boom.” The children born were dubbed Baby Boomers. In contrast, the generation that followed didn't have that kind of characteristic. The origin of the term Gen X was popularized by a 1991 Douglas Coupland novel.

Boomers are the biggest consumers of traditional media like television, radio, and magazines. However, 90 percent of Baby Boomers also have a Facebook account to stay in touch with family members and reconnect with friends. Gen X also reads magazines, listens to the radio, and watches TV.

Baby Boomers are characterized by how they grew up in the fifties and sixties. You worked for a company and retired after 40 years. There was job security, company loyalty and it was the way things worked. Dad went to work, Mom stayed home. Divorce didn't happen. Fast forward to today, the two-parent family is no longer a given.

As well, the job market has vastly changed. Pension funds no longer happen, job security is out of the window. Mom has to work, there is day-care, and the culture knows divorce may be the only option for a dysfunctional home.

Generation X was pushed toward adulthood early as latch-key kids that were home alone. Gen Xers grew up in an era of emerging technology. Mimeograph machines became high-speed copiers, faxes moved from 30 minutes a page to seconds, and adding machines became calculators. Whereas computers used to be the size of whole rooms, for Xers it became a desktop machine. As well, music television brought in different cultures.

Boomers are redefining retirement. They enjoy a variety of activities, ranging from aerobic workouts to quality time with their favorite rock 'n' roll albums.

Hitting the gym and playing sports are popular with Boomers. They focus on feeling healthy and young while combating obesity and health-related problems. Boomers participate in a mix of activities such as tennis, golf, jogging, walking, and aerobic exercise. Baby Boomers were the first to be targeted by health advertisers on TV, so it's not surprising they take their well-being seriously. Extreme sports such as rafting, skydiving, and paragliding also frequent Boomers' itineraries, regardless of their age.

Generation Xers are more likely to join health clubs and are also more likely to become long-tenured members. Popular attractions include treadmills, boot camp, weight machines, free weights, and ellipticals.

Many Baby Boomers plan to continue working well after 65. Two-thirds plan to make a career change to professions such as consulting and teaching, where they can use their experiences to help and guide others.

Half of all leadership roles are held by Gen Xers – with more coming. Known for a willingness to take on new challenges, these employees have the tenure, people skills, and experience to add value as leaders. Gen X is also the more connected generation.

Boomers still wax nostalgic about their concert-going past and enjoy listening to cool tunes, particularly if they're live. Groups such as The Rolling Stones are a multigenerational favorite. As for Generation Xers, lots of bands who peaked in the '80s and '90s still have sizable followings – such as classic metal and punk bands. Tribute bands also follow up with a strong sense of nostalgia.

Home improvement projects are popular among Boomers. Improving homes makes sense as Boomers are typically looking to stick with their current residences. Generation X has a higher homeownership rate and spends more on remodeling. Xers are also fully involved in research online, using a broader range of resources.

Generally speaking, Boomers take pleasure in new technology. But there's a catch: They're biased toward tech that carries out their needs. About half of Boomers are comfortable using the Internet, but only 20 percent of people 57 and older use it confidently. The majority of Boomers own a cell phone and desktop computer, but few purchase the newest gadgets. Social media use has grown the fastest among the older generations. Generation X grew up playing video games, and they spend the most time shopping online, and using social media.

The swinging 60s changed how we viewed important social norms and the influential Baby Boomers rocked the fashion world. Everyday women defined some key fashion trends – such as the bikini and the mini-skirt. The Western world caught on to the fashion trend of the bikini when Brigitte Bardot strolled the beaches of Corsica in Manina and Ursula Andress made every girl dream of being a Bond Girl in Dr. No. The mini-skirt is attributed to British design and fashion icon, Mary Quant. As the mini-skirt gained popularity in the 1960s, it has endured as a symbol of youth culture, sexual freedom, and the rise of pop and rock.

What made up the fashion of Generation X? One of the most popular looks was grunge. It entered mainstream clothing when bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden rose. This look included plaid flannel shirts, stonewashed or ripped jeans, Doc Martens, combat boots, Birkenstocks, and high top sneakers.

Trends from the early '90s included fluorescent colors on sweatpants, t-shirts, parachute pants, and jackets. The most popular clothing colors were blue, green, orange, pink, and yellow. Common looks on women were crop tops, babydoll dresses over leggings, black leather jackets with shoulder pads, and colored or embroidered jeans, with slouch socks, Keds, or ballet flats. Outfits for men included bright t-shirts, denim overalls, colored jeans, striped sweaters, and leather or letterman jackets, with slouch socks and sneakers.

Baby Boomers know what they want in restaurants, and they will seek out establishments that have what they are looking for. Boomers have the largest spending power of all the generations and they say that a restaurant having a mix of new and familiar food is important to them. Baby Boomers prefer to visit restaurants that offer dishes with new or innovative flavors and ingredients. Top cuisines preferred are Italian, Chinese, and Mexican, but many are also interested in regional cuisines within those categories – Sicilian cuisine, Szechuan, and Oaxacan. Boomers are also more likely to look at a restaurant's Facebook page to check out new and exciting offerings. Locally, you can try Sicilian food at Rosti Tuscan Kitchen in Calabasas at www.rostituscankitchen.com, Szechuan food at Golden Dragon in Thousand Oaks at www.goldendragon.ordersnapp.com, and Oaxacan at Señor Grandes Fresh Mexican Grill in Woodland Hills at www.senorgrandes.com.

Gen Xers overwhelmingly choose fast food over other restaurants, with 85 percent visiting them monthly. However, Gen Xers are also more likely to choose a full-service restaurant, particularly one that appeals to families with kids. Gen Xers prefer burgers, chicken, tacos or burritos, hot coffee, bottled water, smoothies, and sports drinks. Ever evolving, those preferences don't stop there. Overall, Gen X likes to try new flavors, such as Sushi and Caribbean food. Try a sushi roll at Sushi Planet Woodland Hills by calling (818) 224-3501 or Caribbean dishes at JamaFo Jamaican Food Xpress in Canoga Park at www.jamafo.com.

Los Angeles is the US's second-largest city, and its sprawling neighborhoods have something for each generation.

For Gen Xers, Glendale is one of the safest areas of LA. If you're looking for a place where you can raise the kids, safety is important. And speaking of kids, within a few miles of Glendale you'll find the LA Zoo, the Norton Simon Museum, Travel Town, hiking trails, and plenty of recreation opportunities.

Manhattan Beach has seen an influx of upscale bars and restaurants where you'll find great cocktails and entrees. It's also super close to LAX, which is convenient for business people or the family of world travelers. Oh, and don't forget there's a beach right there for your enjoyment, too.

For Boomers, retirement communities and senior living housing are available in most areas of the city.

The San Fernando Valley is wide and sprawling and is the bedroom community of Los Angeles. Because it's so vast, it's easier to find parking and shop. It's also only a short ride to other densely populated parts of the city. It's a less stressful living environment and is family-friendly. The valley offers tract homes, apartment complexes, hillside retreats, ranch homes, and mobile home parks.

Topanga Canyon, Box Canyon, and Beachwood Canyon are artsy havens perfect for Boomer's hippie vibes. Malibu Canyon has over 70 vineyards between the valley and the sea. Canyon life means you can find cozy little hideaways filled with wildlife.

Both the Boomer generation and Gen X are increasingly turning to crossovers and compact SUVs. While many retirees dream of saving up for that gorgeous sports car it may not be the best option. Their low-to-the-ground body frames make them difficult to get in and out of as well as difficult to maneuver objects in and out of the trunk. As well, manufacturers have been making huge improvements in SUV's gas mileage. The leap from a large family vehicle to a compact sedan can feel strange, which is why a compact SUV is perfect.

Here's to Generation X and the Baby Boomers! May they continue to blaze through their lifestyles of technology, family, work, and up and coming trends.

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