Love us or hate us, no generation in history has garnered more praise, criticism, controversy, or attention than the Baby Boomers. Why? They changed the world—including Westchester. Today, our local Boomers continue to create, innovate, excite, and inspire.
When Pete Townshend penned the lyrics to The Who’s “My Generation” in 1965, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that not only would the song become a Baby Boomer anthem, but that the band would still be singing, perhaps with some trepidation, the song’s most famous line—“I hope I die before I get old”—50 years later.
But Baby Boomers are a hardy bunch. We’ve fought and protested wars, endured the assassination of one president and the resignation of another, celebrated the first man on the moon and civil rights victories, witnessed Roe v. Wade and welcomed the first-ever “test tube baby.” We’re proud to count among us some of the greatest minds and talents of the century—or ever, for that matter. Think of what our day-to-day lives would be like without the innovations of Boomers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Tim Berners-Lee, for instance.
The Baby Boomer generation, named for the “boom” in births starting shortly after the end of World War II, when soldiers began returning home and starting families, is large. So large, in fact, that it spawned approximately 77.3 million babies. Those were some happy soldiers—and apparently they stayed happy for quite some time: The Baby Boom spanned 19 years, from 1946 through 1964, and, at its peak, roughly 10,000 babies were born in the United States every day.
Which brings us to “waves.” Despite cultural stereotypes, there were not 77.3 million longhaired, mud-covered hippies tripping out at Woodstock to Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner.” While many in the first wave of Boomers (those born from 1946 to approximately 1954) were in their teens or 20s in 1969 and had sex, drugs, and/or rock & roll on their minds, the second wave, those born from 1955 through 1964, were more interested in TV shows like Bewitched, dolls, toys, and games like Twister and Operation.
If the first wave and second wave sound worlds apart, that’s because in some ways, they are. There are Boomers who remember seeing Elvis in concert (and not the Vegas Elvis, either) as 10-year-olds, and Boomers who played Pac-Man after school at the local arcade. There are Boomers who watched Howdy Doody and Boomers who watched Happy Days at the same age. And there are Boomers who are now retired and Boomers who have kids in middle and high school. The common ground? All Boomers are children of the ’60s. We were all there—just at different ages, and with much different perspectives.
Westchester County is home to a large number of Baby Boomers. According to the New York Times, the county’s planning department estimates that 34 percent of the population (roughly 244,690) will be 60 or older by 2030. According to 2010 US Census data (the most recent available), of the 949,113 people in Westchester (that number was projected to have grown to more than 968,000 by 2013), 23.5 percent were 45 to 64 years old, and 14 percent were 65 or older. That’s a lot of Boomers.
Let's time-travel through the Boomer era and talk to prominent area Boomers about what their generation means to them.