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The Times, They Are A-Changin'

posted on Tuesday, February 5, 2019

WesleyLife CEO Rob Kretzinger

In 1963, a young man named Robert Zimmerman -- you might recognize him by the name he later chose, Bob Dylan -- from Hibbing, Minnesota, wrote a poem that was intended to characterize the generation gap and political divide in American culture at the time. He eventually put the poem to music, creating a song that became an anthem for a generation: "The Times, They Are A-Changin'". What followed next were phrases like, “Don’t trust anyone over 30."

The generation that sang along to that song, the Baby Boomers, have grown older. And while they still believe in the song's tenets, the phrase may be changing to, “Don’t trust anyone under 60." No doubt they are entering what could be the most impactful part of their lives.

Every generation has reinvented the third chapter of life. The G.I. generation took the new idea of “retirement” as a waiting period for people who were too worn out to work and refashioned it into a decades-long span of leisure. They created Leisure World, Sun City, and many other age-segregated communities. In fact, they actually invented the phrase “senior citizen”. They were all about trading a lifetime of work -- typically for the same employer -- for activity, travel, and security.

Then came the Silent Generation -- and, ironically, they're not all that silent. Bored by the stereotypical "retirement community," they've rejected shuffleboard and Bingo and embraced yoga and lifelong learning. The Silents refuse to sit back and embrace leisure.  As a group, they are healthier, more active, and are focused on experiences. Instead of being frugal like the Great Depression-raised G.I. Generation, they're value-conscious, driving their Lexuses to the local Sam's or Costco to buy in bulk.

Now look out: We’ve been hearing for years, "The Boomers are coming! The Boomers are coming!" Should we be scared or excited?  How about both of those?  

So much has been written and researched about the Boomers. There are varying opinions about the impact they'll likely have on our nation.  Here’s what we can say with reasonable confidence: The Baby Boom generation of older Americans will live longer, healthier lives than the previous generation -- and there will be more of them. In addition, they will be seeking a transformed experience nothing like their parents' ... and if it’s not what they want, they will challenge and change the reality.

At WesleyLife, we are out in front of this. We’ve changed and adapted just as the generational cohorts have. When I look at the scope and variety of services we offer now compared with our offerings of just 10 years ago, it is staggering.  As an organization, we are in the midst of envisioning a future in 2022, which will be our 75th year of existence.

Ironically, WesleyLife was founded the year the first Baby Boomer was born.  As an organization, we feel like we are going through this together.  I hope you will join us as we create the future of aging in Iowa.

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