November 19, 2010
BABY boomers have had an armchair ride through life.
They've had everything -- money, jobs, the youth revolution, drugs,
rock 'n' roll, free love and lots of it. Now they want the education
that they never needed.
This dominant demographic was spawned from the loins of returning
soldiers at the end of World War II and the decade that followed.
There were lots of them, which is why the media picked the phrase "baby boom".
The world was rebuilding and there was much work.
They could walk out of school and straight into a job, so there was
not a lot of incentive for advanced learning.
Money was plentiful, houses were cheap and they quickly set up their own homes.
Meanwhile, their belief that they knew best, and to never trust
anyone over 30, created a noisy revolution.
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They marched against the Vietnam War; in France they rioted against authority.
Their soundtrack was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and a
hundred other bands whose music you still hear on the radio every day, today.
The necessary accompaniment was drugs and sex. Marijuana and acid
were easy to get and not so legally constricted. The pill stopped
babies, antibiotics cured VD, and AIDS did not exist, so sex ran riot.
They created new fashions -- long hair, braided jackets, necklaces,
high heels, and that was just the boys.
The girls wore mini-skirts, burned their bras and demanded equality.
Work came easily, so they changed jobs at the drop of a hat. Those
who bothered to stay were quickly promoted.
They delayed having babies, and fewer of them, so the next arrivals
-- Generation X -- were overshadowed by their domineering parents.
They produced the movie stars we still flock to visit today.
Ever noticed how many baby-boomer films there are? Like Reds with
Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, where all the heroes
are over 60.
Or TV shows like The Old Guys, and New Tricks with once-were-stars
Dennis Waterman and James Bolam.
There's a whole new market out there for oldies, while 20 years ago
you would scarcely see an over-40 on the screen.
Chemists are now awash with anti-ageing creams and anti-oxidants.
Motorised wheelchairs are getting flashier.
Our boomers are by now rather bored with life as it plays and
suddenly they are hankering after that education that they so
casually tossed aside 45 years ago.
Even as colleges cope with a decline in foreign students, there is a
surge in older people looking for education.
Locals enrolled into post-graduate programs have grown by 13 per
cent, with Master's degrees jumping by 18 per cent.
A report this week from researchers IBISWorld expects the leap in
numbers to soften the pain of the import losses. In fact they are
predicting $3 billion improvement over the next five years.
Baby boomers who have taken early retirement are studying business,
commerce, hospitality, as well as advanced professional development.
Others spend their leisure in short courses at TAFEs. Encouraged by
the reality boom on TV, shows like MasterChef, The Biggest Loser and
Dancing With the Stars, many boomers have sought to improve a
personal skill or hobby.
So they are enrolling for study in the creative arts, cooking, health
and wellbeing, and personal development.
They might have had an armchair through life, but the boomers aren't
about to sit back in one through their twilight years -- they have no
intention of going gently into that good night.