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Baby Boomers & Millenials – Same or Different?

The advantage of generational labels is that they tell us when a group of people was born. The time period often has characteristics unique to that time in history.  The disadvantage?  Generational labels are potentially divisive.

For example, baby boomers are a generation born after the war. They were a population boom! Boomers experienced The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and the introduction of colour television. The millennials are characterized as a group that has grown up in an electronic and socially connected world. They’re often described as self-centered and indulged. Whilst it’s difficult to determine the music that defines them, one writer suggests popularisation of hip-hop, the creation of Boybands, and the prevalence of Indie are amongst the music trends that occurred with this generation.

However, this is not about the definitive characteristics of these two generations. Rather, the purpose of this piece is to suggest that perhaps there are more similarities than differences between the two age groups.

Based on my own work with baby boomers it seems to me there may be some important issues where we come together. Education. Housing affordability. Work.

And potentially, the similarities don’t stop with these big social issues.

 

Baby Boomers & Technology

Whilst boomers are ‘digital immigrants’ they do use and embrace technology. Let’s face it: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are baby boomers! Boomers may not have been born with an iPhone in hand or access to the Internet, but they do know how to use it. And do.

They’re big on Facebook and active users of Google to seek information. And who do you think might be traveling the world using Airbnb and home exchange sites?

Beware though. Whilst boomers are active users of technology they are not all the same (in the same way that there are differences amongst millennials). After all, it’s a 20-year age span. Our conversations revealed that older boomers tend to be more reluctant to either use or have some of the technology available – including mobile phones. You’re also less likely to find an older boomer on social media. And, when I say older, I mean someone in their late 60’s or early 70’s.

 

So. Boomers and millennials. – same or different?

 

Both. And that’s important. There are enough similarities to bring these large and significant groups together on topics that matter, as was demonstrated in this debate.

 

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How old is old?

“I don’t feel my age.”

Old isn’t a number.
Old is an attitude.
Old is more likely to be associated with physical or cognitive decline.

Discussions we’ve held with baby boomers reveals that people often feel ten or twenty years (or more) younger than their actual age! Often, old was either someone else, or someone older.

For example, one 60+ male said:

“I still feel the same as when I was 25, but physically I can’t do the same things.”

A female between 50-60 said:

“I don’t think I feel any different to when I was 40. “

Along with feeling younger than their actual age, baby boomers also expressed a sense of confidence. They associate this with an internal sense of knowing themselves better. Women, in particular, feel more confident and declare a sense of freedom with becoming older. This is generally a result of either being empty-nesters or their children being older and more independent. The days of nappies, dressing small children, and Mum as taxi-driver are often behind them.

It was also common for baby boomers to express frustration at being ignored or labeled as “old”. A recurring story from a number of people was associated with a frustration and irritation with news stories about people 60 years old (for example) being reported as either an ‘old person’ or ‘old people’.

 

Males vs Females

Men and women seem to have an awareness that there’s a need to reinvent their life as they age. Awareness that this includes a good diet, exercise, creation of personal relationships, and a need to be doing something beyond travel and relaxation is understood. What we noticed in our face-to-face discussions is that women often embraced this enthusiastically. Whilst men had the same awareness, they could be more confronted as they considered the transition from full-time work to something else. Women had experienced flexible lifestyles associated with being the primary carer in the family and had reinvented themselves throughout their lives. Also, women often had stronger social networks beyond the workplace. For many men, creating a life beyond and outside of a full-time job was a first time experience.

Regardless of gender, everyone that participated in the discussions found a sense of reassurance in the conversation. Sharing stories and views about their lived experience of ageing were viewed as positive, enlightening, and stimulating.

 

Key Lessons

The most important lesson is that ageing is all about attitude.

Three other lessons:

  • Talk about becoming older with friends – share your experiences. Be open and honest.
  • Enjoy the sense of confidence and freedom that comes with ageing.
  • Ignore stereotypes and defy the ageist attitudes often peddled in the media and online.

Of course, ageing also comes with its difficulties. Financial concerns, caring responsibilities, and physical or cognitive decline pose challenges. These will be discussed in the future. Stay tuned. And, if there were anything you’d particularly like to learn more about or understand, please let us know.

 

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