From the Primaries to Hollywood, Ageism Takes a Well-Deserved Hit

Boomers and Millennials Are Making a Difference

April 7, 2016 · Share via Email LinkedIn

`In the ’60s, there was a popular saying among the Baby Boomer generation, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” It’s a sentiment not widely shared by Millennials, as evidenced by their engagement in the presidential election process.

It has been widely reported that Millennials are showing up in big numbers at the polls this year. The three leading presidential candidates many of them support are, on average, 70 years of age, more than two decades older than the average age, 49, of the three most recent presidents upon taking office. For our nation’s most important job, age is proving to be irrelevant to the youngest voting demographic.

Millennials’ preference for older candidates may seem unlikely, but it makes sense and has lot to do with the parenting style ushered in by the Boomer generation. Rather than imposing their or society’s will on who their children should be, Boomers taught them to prize their own and others’ individuality—not use it as a basis for discrimination.

As a result, Boomers’ offspring are more open-minded, particularly with regard to the advancement of minorities. They have been strong advocates for the election of our nation’s first African-American president, the legalization of gay marriage, women’s rights in the workplace, and immigration. Next up, ageism.

As their Boomer parents continue to redefine life’s possibilities after age 50 and forge a new standard in intergenerational cohesion, Millennials seem quite willing to embrace a more positive perception of aging.

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Thanks to a variety of factors, multigenerational households are becoming increasingly common. Last year, 43% of men aged 18-34 were living at home, according to the Pew Research Center. (The rate for women that age is 36%.) 

What began as a way to ease financial stress has gained momentum due to the close bond Boomers share with their children. This bond is characterized by open communication, shared interests and mutual respect. According to a study, 85% of Millennials consider their parents their best friend.

The fact that many Millennials are sharing close quarters with older generations is a strong indication that yesteryear’s ageist stereotypes about parents simply aren’t relevant today.


As parenting styles have been re-imagined by Boomers, so have coaching styles. While the culture of sports can be slow to change, in the past decade we have seen the emergence of coaches who are less militaristic and more motivational. Such “players’ coaches” are better able to relate to athletes and to guide them to success by creating a more personal and collaborative experience.

According to the sports web site Bleacher Report, “many teams have put a premium on coaches whose strength is communication.”  A good example of this coaching style is NHL coach Barry Trotz, who “has earned a reputation as a demanding, no-nonsense bench boss who is also well-liked and respected by players,” according to the Washington Post.

The upshot is that Boomer coaches and Millennial athletes work more closely together in their shared pursuit of winning. That creates an opportunity for intergenerational cohesion.Image title


We’re seeing more cross-generation pollination in our entertainment as well. “”Dancing With the Stars doesn’t just feature taut young bodies, but older entertainers, too, including 72-year-old Geraldo Rivera. The new show “Crowded,” based on the real-life trend of millennial kids returning home after college, features a multigenerational cast including 74-year-old Stacy Keach.

Further proof of this convergence is the recent Oscar edition ofVanity Fair. Baby Boomer Annie Leibovitz shot 13 portraits of women currently having a big impact in Hollywood. The four women chosen to grace the cover ranged in age from 25 to 78 and included Jennifer Lawrence (25), Cate Blanchett (46), Viola Davis (50) and Jane Fonda (78).

What This Means for Marketers

Forward-thinking marketers leverage demographic and societal trends that open up new opportunities to grow their businesses, and for the foreseeable future, that means embracing all consumers regardless of age.

In 2016, the truth is that Millennials often do trust (and like) people over 30, and along with their Boomer parents are moving society toward a more positive stance on aging. Marketers have been slow to follow this trend, but it makes good business sense to do so: Over the next 10 years, growth of the 50+ population will be triple that of the 18-49 population. To thrive, marketers must change the way they perceive and pursue consumers.

Creating products, services and marketing that reflect the evolving reality of Americans’ lives—where aging isn’t a bad thing, older citizens make vital contributions our society, and opportunities abound regardless of one’s year of birth—enables marketers to connect more authentically with and influence consumers of all ages.