Generation X, Your AARP Card Awaits

The skateboarder, sporting a flannel shirt and black sneakers, glides a board plastered with stickers towards a kick-turn in a sun-dappled concrete bowl.

The picture would possibly appear to be the embodiment of the shredding youth, however one thing is totally different. The skater appears to be like noticeably risk-averse, sporting a full ensemble of pads and touring at a pace not a lot sooner than a grocery cart. With his graying hair and paternal air, he may go for a priest.

Still, he’s on the market, doing it. Never say that the Nirvana era stopped rocking.

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The scene is plucked from an AARP tv spot to debut throughout Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast that targets Generation X, marking the over-50 advocacy group’s splashiest effort but to woo crowd-surfers and Walkman toters from the Lollapalooza days.

But please, don’t name them previous.

“People today, they could spend half their lives over 50,” coos a voice-over within the 30-second spot, the primary of 4 produced by AARP with BBDO New York.

In addition to Gen Xers, the spot additionally options just a few youthful child boomers, doing tai chi and performing TikTok dances with their kids (or maybe grandchildren).

“That’s a lot of living. So it helps to have a wise friend and fierce defender in your corner.”

The message could attraction to a youth-obsessed era that’s busy fine-tuning its 401(ok) plans whereas nonetheless getting tattoos, curating hip-hop playlists and outfitting its kids in Black Flag T-shirts.

The journey from golden youth towards golden years is a troublesome one for any era, after all. But it’s uniquely difficult for members of Generation X, who, in a approach, have by no means wished to develop up.

A comparatively small cohort sandwiched between child boomers and millennials, this demographic consisting of Americans born between 1965 and 1980 appeared to dominate the cultural dialog for less than a short stretch of the 1990s, when Seattle appeared just like the music capital of the universe and “Gen X” served as shorthand for all issues edgy and funky.

Mention “Generation X” lately, nevertheless, and lots of people image Winona Ryder rocking thrift-store stylish in “Reality Bites,” that Fugees CD that everybody had, shirtless grunge rockers sporting knee-length cutoffs with Army boots, “latchkey children” and … not a lot else.

So far, Gen X has not produced a president (Beto, we hardly knew ye), though Vice President Kamala Harris, born in 1964, matches inside looser definitions of the demographic. Stars who helped outline the era like Kurt Cobain and Tupac Shakur died lengthy earlier than they might be a part of the oldies circuit.

If Generation X is taken into account jaded and aloof, you may see why.

This backdrop makes Gen X a novel problem for AARP, even contemplating that the group ditched the “retirement” a part of its identify a long time in the past. Some of that previous skepticism stays, mentioned Barbara Shipley, senior vice chairman of brand name integration at AARP who oversaw the marketing campaign.

In the broadest phrases, AARP market analysis discovered that members of Generation X are typically extra individualistic, not joiners and card carriers, she mentioned. They eschew mass-market blandness. And they’re all too conscious that the longer term is unsure.

“Gen X’s life experiences have shaken their confidence, which puts added pressure on what already feels like a pressure-filled life,” Shipley mentioned. “They suffered the Great Recession and the COVID-19 recession during their prime earning and saving years.”

Boomers, however, loved “more stable relationships with financial institutions, were more likely to have access to pensions, and had greater confidence that Social Security would be a part of their retirement mix,” she added.

Generation X, in different phrases, by no means stopped hustling. This is one motive that AARP is specializing in wealth and entrepreneurship in a future spot, which comes with a counterintuitive tagline: “The younger you are, the more you need AARP.” The affiliation additionally needs to publicize its mentorship applications for small-business homeowners and innovation labs for startups that target individuals older than 50.

And because the 20-somethings of the Clinton years famously have been steeped in irony and edginess, AARP has tried to talk their language.

A couple of years in the past, it launched a weekly e-newsletter concentrating on Gen X ladies referred to as The Girlfriend, that includes sunny, whimsical graphics that recall Sassy journal, and articles on grown-up slumber events and mementos from the ’90s that “you should finally toss.”

The group’s Instagram feed throws within the compulsory photographs of Molly Ringwald and the Rubik’s Cube. But usually, AARP steers away from the impression that Gen X is caught previously.

“I mean, I love ‘The Breakfast Club,’ don’t get me wrong,” mentioned Shipley, a younger boomer herself with a workers of Gen Xers. “But one of the things we focused on is, ‘Let’s not just be about nostalgia.’ This is a group of people that are still finding new music, still like to be tastemakers and are still looking toward the future.”

The reigning clichés about Generation X, in any case, are simply that. Those so-called slackers who supposedly approached life with a collective shrug went on to pioneer the web growth, advance points like local weather change and homosexual rights, and, sure, promote out — which means they solid careers, purchased properties and raised households, identical to adults of all generations.

And at midlife, they don’t have the luxurious of slowing down.

“Their lives are crazy,” Shipley mentioned. “They have kids and hockey practice and they’re caregiving for their parents. As they’re getting deeper into their 50s, we’re starting to see that there are a lot of similarities to baby boomers.”

In different phrases, it’s the top of the world as they comprehend it, however they really feel fantastic.

This article initially appeared in The New York Times.

© 2021 The New York Times Company

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