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Who says boomers aren’t vibrant?


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SA demographer Graeme Hugo’s comments about baby boomers being overlooked in the Adelaide vibrancy debate struck a chord with InDaily readers.

MARGARET LEE: The baby boomers are not only fit, healthy, cashed-up, and prepared to spend time and money at city eateries, they are out there volunteering in revegetation works in the hills and seaside suburbs, working in heritage gardens and performing myriad other services in the community.  Life was never so vibrant!

KEVIN O’BRIEN: Professor Hugo is so right in his assumptions regarding us, the so-called baby boomers. What is there to bring us into the city? I would suggest nothing, with the possible exception of the State Library and they are making more and more available online. The council needs to wake up – we are a big market that is being neglected.

JENNY ESOTS: My main bone to pick about the CBD for boomers is the issue of public transport. If mobility is an issue, it is a long way from one end of town to the other – for example, from a movie at the Palace Nova to a trendy bar in Leigh Street.

My favourite part of the city is North Terrace, from King William to the Botanical Gardens, but again, it is a long haul if you have difficulty walking. Melbourne is blessed by trams that seem to come by all the time. Adelaide desperately needs more trams, at least along North Terrace.

JOHAN (HANS) OVERBEEKE: As probably the first baby boomer in the world (born 11pm before D Day), I don’t think the Adelaide Council gives a stuff about us. We have the money, and intend to spend it on four overseas trips and at Victor, definitely not in Adelaide. Try parking after 10pm when you attend a function at the museum.

J DUNCAN: Professor Hugo is an undoubted leader in his area of expertise.  However, he might be a little off track in his views regarding the role of boomers in reinvigorating Adelaide.

Professor Hugo says that SA’s boomers “have the potential to be at the forefront of social change”, and that they have the money and energy to transform the city.  Perhaps. As an Xer who witnessed a stream of young people leaving the state from the late ’80s onwards, I would suggest that, while the boomers may have had the potential to reinvigorate the city, they failed to do so, consistently, over more than three decades.

South Australia has to have an emphasis on attracting and retaining young people – we have lost far too many of them, and their increased retention over the past few years has made a marked difference to the life, colour and entrepreneurialism that is now infusing Adelaide and its surrounds.  This is something on which the State Government and the Adelaide City Council should be congratulated.

Professor Hugo asks: “Why can’t baby boomers be hip and groovy?”  You tell me.  Fact is, someone has been holding our state in thrall to a frightened and conservative mindset ever since the State Bank collapsed.  Who might that have been?

FRED GOLDSTONE: I agree with Professor Hugo’s opinion of the Adelaide  City Council’s failure to recognise the value of baby boomers, but he is wasting his breath with the current council.

The City Council has been taken over by people who have very narrow opinions on how the city should operate. Led by the Mayor, they are totally youth-oriented and lack the ability to expand their horizons to see the “big picture”. Like the State Labor Government, they come up with ideas without any form of discussion outside of their own clique and then wonder why no one else agrees with them.

Then they call for “consultation” with the community, then ignore every alternate argument and proceed as they intended. Sometimes they get it right but mostly it becomes a shambles and ends up going well over budget and long past the original due date, due to their lack of forethought and inability to recognise reality.

Baby boomers would love to utilise the city more but are deterred by the lack of consultation and respect by those charged with the responsibility of serving the whole community’s needs. The current debacle in Rundle Mall is a classic example of their bureaucratic style of leadership.

RICHARD ABBOTT: As a city resident and local business person of more than 28 years, I have to add to Professor Hugo’s views published in InDaily.

First, on city vibrancy: Sadly we “been-there-done-that” vibrant BBs get too easily blamed for being negative when commenting about change – especially as both the young-generation entrepreneurs and the eager state and local government officers wanting a vibrant city unfortunately ignore the facts that Adelaide is sited at the end of the world, with relatively low tourist visitation, and a population too small to economically sustain all of these new city vibrancy concepts.

I also suggest that the younger-generation entrepreneurs overlook the fact that their cashed-up young target market quickly becomes heavily financially committed and then unable to afford to attend these funky venues. Given also that these funky venues were never designed to attract the cashed-up BB market, the end result is financial failure and empty business venues that further detract from the aim of creating a vibrant city.

Second, on city escape: My wife and I opted a number of years ago to retreat part-time to a place 45 minutes from the CBD, along the coast and among the gum trees, because our lifestyle is now not about raging, but instead indulgent simplicity.

STEVE HARRISON: Professor Hugo is right on the money. Only we baby boomers are creatures of habit, and we love our local coffee houses and cafes, and we do not want to be forced to leave our comfortable local area to find entertainment and enjoy our “third place” hub.

The current focus on the Adelaide CBD is a strategic error of judgement and 40 years too late. The baby boomers and the greater majority of Adelaideans live in the inner and outer suburbs that now stretch from Aldinga to Gawler. And we will begin to tire of this investment solely in a CBD that is so disconnected from the rest of Adelaide.

With the Australian dollar rocketing, fuel prices towards $1.75 per litre, and a less-than-adequate public transport system, the only answer for all of Adelaide is the decentralisation of the CBD, so that the same services, entertainment and hospitality can be offered locally in the north, south, west and hills. The last thing I want to do is to travel to the Adelaide CBD. Local is good, being linked globally, locally, is even better.

IAN SMITH, Independent “Your Voice Matters” candidate for the Legislative Council: Spot on, Graeme Hugo. The interests and demands of baby boomers need to be integrated into our planning, not just in Adelaide, but right across the state. The move of boomers to the Fleurieu and Yorke Peninsula is already having significant impacts on the local councils in those areas, but those changes will soon be evident in Adelaide. In centres like Mount Gambier and Port Lincoln, services and options will need to be developed to accommodate baby boomers. More study is needed into what they want, but the government ignores them at their peril.

RUTH CARTER:  I concur with the comments of Professor Hugo on the demographics of the City of Adelaide, suggesting baby boomers constitute a major player in generating vibrancy and injecting cash into the city.

Many small businesses in the city are owned or managed by baby boomers; nearly half of all those in the workforce of SA are self-employed small business owners or employees. The Federal Government wants this generation to work until 70 years, having already increased access to the aged pension to 67 years. Women in this cohort especially need to keep working longer than their male counterparts, as do many self-employed of either gender in their 60s.

Adelaide punches above its weight in part due to the strength of our open-minded, multicultural and democratic traditions. It is renowned as a city of the arts – consider which cohorts contribute substantially to our arts sector as either artists or consumers.

Young families, often consigned to lower-cost housing in the ever-growing outer suburbs, need better access to an affordable home and lifestyle choice in the inner Adelaide metropolitan area, which is achievable by redeveloping large blocks in the inner metropolitan suburbs. Other benefits that will flow from this approach are achievable with better public transport, safe access to all facilities for young and old alike, and careful planning of sites for owner-occupied retirement cottages. What a shame we are making this more difficult by cutting the extra grant to new home builders.

Have we lost some of the focus set out in the early versions of the South Australian Strategic Plan?

MARK COLEMAN: I believe it’s entirely correct that Adelaide is failing to include baby boomers in its planning – they apparently aren’t interesting enough!

Go to any event where people spend real money, however, and it’s the boomers that fund vibrancy, not the hipsters. Boomers are the people who can afford to move into the city, renovate an old cottage or shop, patronise the cafés and restaurants, and who likely also work nearby.  These are the people who will be engaged with, and passionate about, future plans for the city.

Sadly, until media and council move away from their ageist myopia, the focus will remain on the wrong demographic.

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