There are at least two reasons why Vancouver Island plays a starring role in The Boomer Revolution.
First, it features Barry Flatman, whom you’ll know if you’re old enough to remember those Freedom 55 commercials.
The prolific Victoria native has played cops, judges and American presidents on screen for decades, yet he’s almost as well known for his appearance in one of London Life’s classic commercials extolling the virtues of early retirement.
The irony is that Flatman, who was 35 when he made his commercial, is the opposite of the young retiree he portrayed.
Now 62, Flatman is still working and has no intention of retiring anytime soon.
“I don’t know if you could even introduce a Freedom 55 concept anymore,” says Flatman, who was diagnosed with oral cancer at that age and has since had two knee replacements.
Then a cigar-smoking actor, he was told he could lose his voice. He lost nearly 20 per cent of his tongue during surgery but recovered after six months of intensive speech therapy.
The Oak Bay High grad is one of 40 per cent of Canadian baby boomers who have decided to retire later, not sooner.
“I never really got that,” Flatman said, reflecting on the traditional notion that “you work your butt off, then you put your feet up and then die. … My career is this big learning curve, and that’s going to go on whether I’m 65, 80 or 100.”
That isn’t to say that Flatman has given up hope of enjoying life outside work — he’s currently hiking in the Himalayas,
The other local star of writer-director Sue Ridout’s cautionary film is the Comox Valley, boomer capital of Canada.
According to recent census figures, 42 per cent of the region’s population is made up of baby boomers — the post-Second World War surge that produced 8.2 million babies in Canada.
“It wasn’t a huge surprise,” says Victoria co-producer Sara Darling. “We assumed [the boomer capital] would be somewhere on Vancouver Island.”
The life-expectancy of the generation that makes up 30 per cent of Canada’s population and controls two-thirds of consumer spending has increased by 30 years in the last century, reveals the film, which looks at an impending boomer housing revolution.
While Darling, 47, was marketing the documentary, she learned boomers are as reviled as much as they valued.
“It was interesting to see how the Generation X and younger generations feel,” she said, referring to the buzz on Facebook. “It’s like, ‘Why should I watch that? I despise them.’ It’s amazing some of the venom people feel.”
The impact of baby boomers is almost too much to cover in an hour, she admits, but they wanted to show the breadth of what’s going on.
“We didn’t feel there’s been a lot of discussion about this demographic,” Darling said. “This documentary is designed to get that conversation started.”
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