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Baby boomers: Officially, you’re now senior citizens

Baby boomers – those born 1946-1964 – represent the largest population growth in US history. What will they do in retirement, and what impact will that have on society and the economy?

By Staff writer / January 2, 2011

A couple on motocycle during the Rolling Thunder Rally Memorial Day in Washington DC. On New Years Day, baby boomers, who represent the largest single population growth in US history, officially started becoming senior citizens.

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It’s official.

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That generation of Americans raised on “Leave It to Beaver,” who came of age during the battles over racial segregation, fought in (or over) the Vietnam War, joined the Peace Corps, marched for women’s rights, and populated suburbia with their offspring are now senior citizens.

We’re talking about baby boomers here – people born between 1946 and 1964, the first of whom turned 65 on New Years Day.

OK, so it’s mainly a big deal for demographers, wonkishly charting and graphing society.

In fact, boomers have been eligible to join the AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons) for 15 years, and they’ve already seen three of their number become president – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama (at the youngest end of baby boomerhood).

But the image is distinct.

They’re still boogying to geezer rock. (Thank you Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.) Though their tie-dye may be fading and their pony tails dangling beneath bald pates, many are still certified political lefties – even though most boomers’ political dissent these days comes as the graying base of the solidly conservative tea party movement.

Beyond image is the reality of a generational cohort that sent astronauts (of both genders and all races) into space, built a post-war economy on everything from Chevrolets to computer chips, invented “exurbs” and the shopping mall … and failed to heed Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about a “military-industrial complex” as the United States became the most powerful nation in human history – and consequently was at war or involved in military intervention someplace on the planet virtually the whole time since 1946.

If baby boomers seem ubiquitous (we’ll get to the self-absorbed part in a minute), their numbers tell the story.

“At over 76 million people, baby boomers represent the largest single population growth in US history and have had an enormous impact on every institution in the country, as well as lived through some of the most interesting times in American history,” begins a recent report by AARP “Approaching 65: A Survey of Baby Boomers Turning 65 Years Old.”

Another number indicating boomer clout among the senior citizen class: On average, 7,000 a day are turning 65.

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