Anti-social or just getting more picky? Baby boomers are less socially engaged than people the same age 20 years ago according to a Stanford Center on Longevity study. How do you define social engagement you might be asking? The Center defined it as something measured by involvement with family, friends, neighbors, spouses, as well as work, volunteer or community activities.
Are we deliberately pulling back on social commitments or is it due to lack of time or other pressures. Baby boomers are the sandwich generation after all, and they may be caring for elderly parents while their children may still live under their roof. The need to continue working for financial considerations is also a factor. Boomers have also moved frequently during their careers and that has limited longer-term interpersonal relations.
I recently had a discussion where a group of baby boomers agreed that while face to face socialization and bonding over common interests might be desirable, the same connection via the internet might be more satisfying and even more efficient. A hypothetical group of stamp collectors might dislike each other’s politics if they met in person, but the internet interaction helps to keep the focus on stamps. So even polarization has been a factor in discouraging more face to face interactions.
Texting and email have definitely made it easier to stay in touch with “your people.” Is that a bad thing? I don’t believe it is, but some of the Stanford researchers are concerned about what’s lost when boomers back away from meaningful engagement. Keeping to ourselves may not be good for our communities that need volunteers, mentors and civic minded participants.
I don’t foresee boomers becoming so isolated that their communities suffer as a good percentage of them will continue to be socially engaged. We may be trying to find that happy medium where we maintain quality real time people interactions along with social media interactions. Bottom line, it’s too soon to label boomers and people who don’t need people. In fact, we need people more than ever but we’re redefining how we maintain those relationships.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.