Over the past 10 years, audiologists in the USA have heard a lot about the Baby Boomer generation and what these patients will mean to their practices and the field of Audiology. We are told that this next generation of hearing impaired individuals are the largest ever and that we need to “be prepared” to be overwhelmed by waves of patients knocking down the doors of our clinics for services. There are those, however, such as Zahn et al (2010), that feel the Baby Boomer group, at least in the US, may have taken better care of their hearing than their parents and the huge wave of hearing impaired individuals expected may not actually materialize. In reviewing the impact of the Baby Boomer generation on those that provide hearing care services most developed countries are prepared for this group as they present themselves for treatment. If you review population figures from the US it is obvious that there are many more individuals in the cohorts called the “baby Boomer Generation” than the previous group that has occupied most of our careers since the 1970s.
Who are these Baby Boomer People?
The Baby Boomer generation is defined by those born after WWII between the years 1946 and 1964. Rosenberg (2011) reports that young males returning to the United States, Canada, and Australia following tours of duty overseas during World War II began families, which brought a significant number of new children into the world. This dramatic increase in the number of US births from 1946 to 1964 (1947 to 1966 in Canada and 1946-1961 in Australia) is called the Baby Boom. In the US alone, before WWII there were about 2 million births per year but after peace in 1945, there were between 3.2 – 4 Million children born per year. Figure 1 (right) offers the number of births in the United States in Red, ovbiously this is a much grreater number than those born before the war. After WWII there is a truly world population boom in the late 1940s through the late 1960s but this boom was not simply isolated the United States. To accommodate thhis new growth in population, communities were built for them, fashions were designed with them in mind, even the “muscle car” was marketed to them. Holly wood even presented television and movies for this new generation and created a matrket for a myriad of products. Just as they have always been in the marketplace for something, now that they are older, the Boomers will be changing the way in 3which people age and require the products that keep them doing the things that like to do. Even if these unprecedented numbers of people have taken better care of their hearing than their parents, data from the National Academy of Sciences (2005) indicates that the sheer number of retired individuals with will still be a challenge to the medical system and those of us involved in Hearing Care to accommodate them. Between the years 2006 and 2030 the worlds 65+ population will simply explode.
A Worldwide Trend?
Thus, the real question posed this week by Hearing International …. Is this simply a US, possibly North American and Australian phenomenon or is this a situation with world wide impact? Although this increase is significant, Europe has the largest population of individuals born in this period but it is generally accepted that the European baby boom began later and in some contries it lasted into the early 1970s. The chart to the left refers to the world population from 1750-2050, when reviewing the size of the world’s population it is obvious that the world became a larger place after WWII. According to Ogg et al (2006) the post war baby boom was pronounced in Denmark, Sweden, UK, The Netherlands, France and Switzerland. Ogg further reports that that birth rates peaked in the Netherlands in 1947-48 and that it took a bit of time for Germany to reach its peak in the early 1960s. The thought is that Europe took some time for the region to heal before babies were born in large numbers. This sort of “delayed Baby Boom is sometimes called the “Second Baby Boom”. So the Baby Boomers are not just tied to the USA, North America or Austraila (Oceania), they are a world wide phenomena. As for Asia, there are many older people and not many new young people as family limitations are expected by cultural standards and the government. Latin America was not much effected by the baby boom or neither were north Africa or sub saharan Africa. Su saharan Africa has mostly younger people as there has been much disease, ethic cleansing and famine that has led to a minimal elderly population.
These new older people are referred to by different names in various places Perfect Agers, Generation Gold, Second Life People or Selpies, Well Off Older People or Woopies (Down Under), Empty Nesters, Best Agers (primarily in Europe), but in most countries these people are simply referred to as the “Baby Boomer Generation”. The first of these baby boomers in North America and Oceania began turning 60 in 2006 and will continue to turn 60 by the millions each year for the next 17 years. Europe will have their own Baby Boomers about 5 to 10 years later and create a significant number of older people on the continent as well.
The world is already adjusting to accommodate to this group by reviewing retirement programs, healthcare programs and other systems that have been inplace for years in vcarious parts of thw world. Retirement systems that worked when there were a few older people now cause a problem as there are not enough younger people working to support them. This will be an international issue for some time to come as with world ages. –RMT–
Rosenberg, M., (2011). The population of baby boom of 1946-1964 in the United States. About.com, Retrived from the World Wide Web August 16, 2011: http://geography.about.com/od/populationgeography/a/babyboom.htm
Ogg,J., Young Foundation & Bonavalet, C., (2006). The baby boomer generation and the birth cohort 1945-1954: A European perspective. The Young Foundation, Retrieved from the World Wide Web August 16, 2011: http://www.youngfoundation.org/files/images/03_06_Europeanbabyboomers.pdf
Zahn, W.,Cruickshanks, K., Klien, B., Huang, G., Pankow, J., Gangnon, R., & Tweed, T. (2010). Generational Differences in the Prevalence of Hearing Impairment in Older Adults, American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 171, pp. 260-266: Retrieved from the World Wide Web August 16, 2011: http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/171/2/260.abstract