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Boomer narcissism, ageism debunked

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Between "the Greatest Generation" and "Gen Y" - five generations of Americans now populate the nation, each distinct and boasting opinions about themselves and one another that often run counter to persistent cultural myths.

Like ageism.

Americans don't hate old people. Americans love old people.

And the Boomers aren't half as fake, annoying and self-absorbed as their collective public image might indicate.

This is all according to Harris Interactive, which in recent months posed the same questions about life experiences and attitudes to 3,868 adults between the ages of 21 to 83.

"These findings show that two widely held views are false - that America is riddled with ageism and that younger people have no respect for older people. While there is surely some prejudice against older people, which sometimes leads to age discrimination, the two oldest generations - the Silent and the Greatest Generations - are much more admired than any other generation," the survey said.

Indeed, the "Silents" (ages 63 to 83) and the "Greatests" (84 years and older) topped the list of the most admired among the respondents, with the Boomers (ages 44 to 62) coming in third.

And while some marketing portrays the Boomers as a bunch of geezers still playing garage rock and surfing, their 1960s ideals somehow have survived the four decades that have elapsed since Woodstock.

"Another common belief, shown to be false in this survey, is that Baby Boomers are widely seen as particularly self-indulgent or even greedy. In reality, Boomers get higher marks than other generations for being socially conscious, productive and having a positive effect on society," the survey said.

Those geezer rockers, in fact, were also "most widely viewed as having a positive effect on society," the research found, with Generation X (ages 32 to 43) in second place. Both of those demographic groups also were cited as the "most productive" and the "most socially conscious."

Generation Y - everyone 31 and younger - did not fare so well in the survey. But the generation also appears to embrace a few of its less-than-desirable qualities.

The young and restless were voted "the most greedy," for example. But the highest positive response came right from their own ranks. The survey found that 62 percent of the Gen Y agreed they were greedy, compared with 47 percent of the more forgiving Silents.

Gen Y also was deemed the most "shortsighted," a description that two-thirds of them agreed with, and the most self-indulgent. Again, 58 percent of the group - the highest percentage in the survey - said that yes, they pampered themselves.

Almost all the groups were not very keen on their nicknames, in the meantime.

Given the choice, the Silents would rename themselves the "Responsible Generation." The Gen X'ers said that "Generation Tech" was their preferred designation, while Gen Y was more comfortable with the "Internet Generation." Only the Boomers were content with their long-standing name, favoring it over such terms as "Woodstock Generation" or "Me Generation."

The survey was conducted between March 28 and April 22 using weighted figures for age, sex and other factor to align responses to actual population statistics. The analysis was released Monday.

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