Introduction - Do we have we ANYTHING in common?
Are you a “baby boomer” or perhaps one of the “silent generation”? Maybe you were born into Generation X and, if so, does it matter?
I should explain that we live in a three-generation household … middle-aged parents, two young adult offspring and octogenarian grandmother. We all have busy lifestyles but, every Sunday, we slow down and get together to eat our evening meal. Our youngest says it saves his life as it’s the only time he eats fresh vegetables and a home cooked dinner. I hope he’s exaggerating!
Around the table and afterwards we have a right good old blether. We catch up on everyone’s news. What’s been happening, what’s coming up the following week and what’s topical in the media too. Nothing is off limits. From Trump’s latest tweet and Brexit - to music, movies and football results – to what’s trending on social media. It’s always a delicious mix of information, surprises, opinions, agreement, some disagreements, reminiscences and (thankfully) a lot of laughter. I love it. Especially since I know it’s unlikely to last as the lads settle down and start their own families.
If that makes us sound a bit too much like the Brady Bunch, let’s inject a dose of reality. Granny becomes very uncomfortable when the debate gets a little too heated and swiftly tells us all to pipe down. The kids couldn’t care less about my insistence that the cutlery be set the right way around and completely ignore the “no dogs at the table” rule. They barely touch alcohol while mum, dad and gran do like a wee glass of something to help the food go down.
We all have our mobile phones and other devices within easy reach should they be needed (though NOT on the table); and it drives the kids crazy that gran insists on waiting until everyone is seated and quiet before anyone is allowed to eat. Especially when dad is telling yet another long, detailed story about the joys of quantity surveying – yawn, yawn.
Unsurprisingly, each take on things is often different according to our age and experience. Throw in the fact that mum and dad are baby boomers approaching older age in markedly different ways from their parents and grandparents - and you can easily see how a better understanding of today’s generation gaps could be useful for all of us.
Does it matter what generation you were born into? According to those in sales, marketing, advertising and policy making, it does matter. It really matters and they invest small fortunes on research trying to better understand what makes us tick so that they can influence our everyday choices, needs and spending decisions.
There are different categories in use worldwide but, according to the respected Washington-based Pew Research Centre, there are five living generational groups.
· The Silent Generation, born before 1945, (73yrs and over)
· Baby Boomers, born 1946-1964, (54-72yrs)
· Generation X, born 1965-1980 (38-53yrs)
· Millennials, born 1981-1996 (22-37yrs)
· Post-Millennials, born since 1997 (up to 21yrs old)
These definitions are just tools to help work out how the different age groups are experiencing the world, but could we all learn something from the fascinating information they unearth? I think so. I think it’s worth “minding the gap” in a lighthearted and positive way. Better to have a laugh understanding the differences together, rather than subscribing to the view that the different generations will always be at loggerheads. Surely that’s not inevitable?
So, where to start? At the most basic level, we hear that the silent generation don’t like to complain and still largely respect authority.
Many baby boomers have financial security that millennials can barely imagine and better social lives than many twenty somethings. Instead of sitting on the couch they go out a lot, are more active and take up hobbies. With a background of pop music, heavy rock, equal rights and the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, their attitude to retirement firmly rejects the old pipe and slippers stereotype.
Millennials care less about job security than they do about enjoying life, may not want the burden of home ownership and are very environmentally aware. They are later to marry, quicker to divorce and do not live to work.
There are fears that post-millennials (the under 21s) may struggle with relationships because they spend more time communicating via screens than face to face. They’re also much less impressed with authority. Respect can’t be taken for granted and don’t expect it just because you are older or you’ll likely be disappointed.
My goodness, have we anything in common at all? Yes, of course we have. Life is all about getting along together. Let’s take a lighthearted look
at a wide range of topics from these different perspectives and who knows – we might just be able to help to close the gap!
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