The Mature Imagination and Consumption Strategies

Main Article Content

Simon Biggs
Chris Phillipson
Rebecca Leach
Anne-Marie Money


Baby boomers have been credited with an essentially ’youthful’ approach to themselves, to consumption and to life-style. As they enter midlife and older age they are also faced with the challenges of a mature identity. This paper critically examines the strategies that baby boomers in the United Kingdom use to manage identity as they grow older. Specifically, questions concerning attitudes to cohort labels, personal ageing and other generations are compared to the consumption choices that are made in areas considered to be key to an ageing identity, including: appearance, clothing and bodily maintenance. Boomers identify with succeeding rather than preceding generations. While they claim not to be concerned with bodily ageing as such, their strategies are aimed at maintaining a balance between youthful and mature identities. Priority was given to blurring the boundaries between themselves and younger adult generations. The implications for the relationship between adult ageing and patterns of consumption are explored.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

Articles in a Special Issue


Antonucci, T. C., Akiyama, H., & Merline, A. (2001). Dynamics of social relationships in midlife. In M. E. Lachman (ed.), Handbook of Midlife Development. (pp. 571–598). Chichester: Wiley.

Attias-Donfut, C. (2003). Family transfers and cultural transmissions between three generations in France. In V. L. Bengtson & A. Lowenstein (eds.), Global Aging and Challenges to Families. (pp. 214–252). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Attias-Donfut, C., & Wolff, F-C. (2005). Generational memory and family relationships. In M. L. Johnson (ed.) in Association with Bengtson, V. L, Coleman, P and Kirkwood, T., The Cambridge Handbook of Age and Ageing. (pp. 443–454). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bengtson, V. L., Elder, G. H., & Putney, N. M. (2005). The life course perspective on ageing: Linked lives, timing, and history. In M. L. Johnson (ed.) in Association with Bengtson, V. L, Coleman, P and Kirkwood, T., The Cambridge Handbook of Age and Ageing. (pp. 493–501). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bernard, M., Bartlam, B., Biggs, S. & Sim, J. (2004). New lifestyles in Old Age: health identity and well-being in Berryhill Retirement Village. Bristol: Policy Press.

Biggs, S. (1997). Choosing not to be old? masks, bodies and identity management in later life. Ageing & Society, 17(5): 553–570. [Read this article]


Biggs, S. (1999). The Mature Imagination. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Biggs, S. (2005). Beyond appearances: Perspectives on identity in later life and some implications for method. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 69B: S118–S127.

Edmunds, J. & Turner, B. (2002). Generations, Culture and Society. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Featherstone, M., & Hepworth, M. (1989). Ageing and old age: reflections on the post-modern life course. In B. Bytheway (ed.), Becoming and Being Old: Sociological Approaches to Later Life (pp. 143–157). London: Sage.

Gilleard, C., & Higgs, P. (2002). The third age; class cohort or generation? Ageing & Society, 22(3): 369–382. [Read this article]


Gilleard, C., & Higgs, P. (2005). Contexts of Ageing: Class Cohort and Community. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Grenier, A. (2007, in press). Crossing age and generational boundariesJournal of Social Issues 63(4): 713–727.


Harkin J. & Huber, J. (2004). Eternal Youths: How the Baby Boomers are Having their Time Again. London: Demos.

Huber, J. & Skidmore, P. (2003). The New Old: Why Baby Boomers won’t be Pensioned Off. London: Demos.

Kaufman, G., & Elder, G. (2002). Revisiting age identity. Journal of Aging Studies, 16(2): 169–176. [Read this article]


Kynaston, D. (2007). Austerity Britain 1945–51. London: Bloomsbury.

Mannheim, K. (1952). The problem of generations. In K. Mannheim (ed.), Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge. (pp. 276–322). London: Routledge.

Metz, D. & Underwood, M. (2005). Older, Richer, Fitter, London: Age Concern, England.

Sandbook, D. (2005). Never Had it so Hood: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles, London:  Brown.

Stewart, A. J. & Torges, C. M. (2006). Social, Historical, and Developmental Influences on the Psychology of the Baby Boom at Midlife. In S. K. Whitbourne & S. K. Willis, S. L. The Baby Boomers Grow Up: Contemporary Perspectives on Midlife. (pp. 22–41). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Woodward, K. (1991). Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.