What baby boomer tribe do you belong to?

Michael Adams, co-founder of Environics and author of the recent book, “Stayin’ Alive: How Canadian baby boomers will work, play and find meaning in the second half of their adult lives,” spoke at the ORCA/OLTCA conference earlier this month.

Adams outlined the four different types of boomers that he calls, “tribes”. The first two are most like their own parents, many of whom live in retirement communities now, while the other two are more like the  image of baby boomers we are familiar with from popular culture—authority-rejecting individualists.

Which tribe do you belong to?

Anxious Communitarians: 12% of boomers

Icons: Celine Dion, Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey

This group is primarily female and tends to be motivated by traditional values, family and social status. They like to keep up appearances and they will spend money to get the status recognition they desire—often from name brands. They fear illness more than some other boomer tribes and want their doctors to protect them by telling them what will keep them safe and well. Their fear of violence also leads them to place a high value on security and safety.

Disengaged Darwinists:  48% of boomers

Icons: Don Cherry, Gen. Rick Hillier, Christie Blatchford

This group has the lowest percentage of foreign-born members and is more likely to be made up of men, many of whom are still in their first marriage. Their big motivators are financial independence, family, security and stability. They are also fatalistic; they like their steaks and figure that if eating that way kills them, so be it. They trust their doctors more than they trust the idea of healthy eating to prevent disease but they don't see their doctors on a regular basis. They do not like taking risks with their money, they prefer to save and they feel some nostalgia for the past.

The anxious communitarians and the disengaged Darwinists are the two tribes most like their parents in terms of nostalgia for the past, traditional values and being risk-averse. They both place importance on social status and security and often marry each other.

Autonomous Rebels:  19% of boomers

Icons: Jon Stewart, Pierre Trudeau, Mick Jagger, David Suzuki, Louise Arbour

This tribe has many of the qualities we often associate with boomers: they question and often reject traditional authority figures and institutions and favour equality of the sexes. They also want equal relationships with youth and better connections with their kids than they had with their own parents. Their gender makeup is 50% men and 50% women, they tend to have the highest education and income and they often work in the public sector. More of them are divorced and living alone than other tribes and they are more inclined to pursue interesting experiences than security and status. They will seek out advice but they make their own decisions.

Connected Enthusiasts:  21% of boomers

Icons: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, The Dalai Lama, Rick Mercer

The majority  of connected enthusiasts—58%— are women. They have the highest percentage of self-employed members of all the boomer tribes and work primarily in the professions and trades. They tend to be very creative, like to learn from others and have diverse friendships. They are very curious, are interested in cultural fusion, and are very ethical consumers. They place a high value on exercise and healthy food and believe that the body is a temple and a playground, as long as they keep in shape. They are very interested in self-improvement and seek out the appropriate advice. Their interest in fulfilling themselves can be even greater than that of the autonomous rebels.

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