The ‘Boomers’ are coming

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

T-minus one year and counting.

Beginning in 2011, the initial crop of “Baby Boomers” – those born in the post World War II era – will reach the official retirement age of 65. Thus will open the floodgates as some 76 million American children were born during the “Baby Boom” era (1946-1964).

Reports show that over the next 20 years, the number of North Carolina citizens ages 65-and-over will double. Yours truly is included in that grouping. God-willing, I’ll celebrate my 65th birthday on June 22, 2018.

While the younger generation may look at those in their twilight years as being unproductive in life, there are studies that beg to differ.

A new study by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research finds that the civic contributions of the elderly are a huge civic resource for the state and will be even more important as the state’s population ages.

The study showed that in the November 2008 elections, 1.14 million North Carolinians aged 65 and over were registered to vote in North Carolina. Voter turnout for this group was 76 percent, compared with 70 percent for all age groups. Male voters aged 65 and over had an even higher voter turnout rate of 78 percent.

With the 2010 census officially underway, the Center’s study found that older North Carolinians have the highest return rates. Nationwide, the census return rate in 2000 was 78.4 percent. Those aged 65 and older had the highest return rate of 89.1 percent followed by the 45-64 age group with a return rate of 82.4 percent.

As far as charitable giving in North Carolina, those aged 70 and older give the highest percentage of their incomes to nonprofits in their communities. But, a higher percentage of the Baby Boom generation give. In a 2008 survey, 73 percent of Baby Boomers had given money in the past 12 months to a nonprofit, and 71 percent had given money to a place of worship.

Over the next several decades, Baby Boomers will have more money to give because they will receive a great deal of wealth through bequests. How Boomers give money may reshape the nonprofit sector.

Another “senior” service is that those ages 65 and over are more likely to serve on a jury, even though in some states, including North Carolina, age actually provides potential jurors an excuse from jury duty.

In September 2009, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of a survey about Internet users and civic engagement. The Center analyzed that data and found, surprisingly, those aged 72 and over who use the Internet were more likely to be civically engaged online than Baby Boomers who use the Internet.

The next generation of senior citizens are called Leading Boomers (ages 54-to-62) by the Pew Project. They have a different style of civic engagement – doing more in person and less online. Almost 25 percent of Leading Boomers attended a political meeting on local, town, or school affairs and 17 percent of the Leading Boomers were active members of a group that tries to influence public policy or government.

And did you know that those aged 65 and older provide volunteer services more than most other generations. The Baby Boomer volunteer rate in North Carolina stands at 29 percent, surpassed only by the state’s college students with a volunteer rate of 32.9 percent.

For more information about this topic, call Mebane Rash, editor of North Carolina Insight, at the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research, at (919) 832-2839, or email her at

Cal Bryant serves as Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.