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We are in awe of the greatest generation. We respect the traditionalists. We shake our heads at the baby boomers. We feel bad for the Gen Xers. Don’t even get us started on the millennials. And the kids of Generation Z? Who knows what’s to become of them.
Can you name the six generations, cite the years they were born or explain the — in a few cases —misfortunate stereotypes that have been assigned to them? When pressed, would you be able to explain why people might vilify millennials when, in fact, they are leading the way in improving some of the problems that were allowed to flourish in earlier generations?
At a time when everyone seems to have taken to their own corners and forgotten the value of diversity of opinions, and when a sense of community is most needed, it’s important to remember that with knowledge comes understanding, and with understanding then comes acceptance.
So, in service to wanting to make the members of our community more understanding and accepting of one another, we offer a beginner’s guide to the generations.
Born at the beginning of the 20th century through 1926, members of this generation are now the oldest living people at age 93 and older, with several very sharp and dynamic centenarians still among us. They survived the Great Depression and fought or labored during World War II. With a can-do attitude and willingness to sacrifice self for the benefit of others, this generation stands as an example of “duty, honor and faith” and hopes to pass along their belief in personal responsibility to younger generations.
Born between 1927 and 1945, members of this group — also known as the silent generation — are now ages 74 to 92. They experienced the Korean War, were children of the Great Depression, and deeply value family, patriotism, resilience, hard work and sacrifice. As their name implies, they prefer things as they have traditionally been, including loyalty to a single company, tech-free interpersonal communication and what they might call good old-fashioned values. They still have much to offer due to good health in their later years, vast experiences, considerable knowledge and a desire to stay connected to younger generations.
Now ages 55 to 73 with birth years between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers have also been called the “Me” generation. They experienced the Vietnam War, fought for civil rights and launched the sexual revolution. Whether they were once considered hippies or yuppies — or “yippies,” a combination of the two — they were often faulted for being selfish and greedy for seeking to change the status quo. However, the changes they achieved led to greater equal rights and opportunities for all and a rise in volunteerism.
Those born between 1965 and 1980 are no longer the grunge-wearing teens and young adults you might picture when thinking about Gen Xers. Now adults ages 39 to 54, this generation brought about an awareness for the importance of work-life balance. They value education, good health, technology, human rights and strive to avoid some of the issues their childhood families experienced, including their parents’ workaholism and high divorce rates.
This is the generation that gets the worst — and most undeserved — rap. Ages 23 to 38 and born between 1981 and 1996, millennials, also called Generation Y, are known for being glued to their gadgets and unable to stay loyal to one company or satisfied with anything considered simply average. However, millennials are high-achievers with a desire for flexibility and a focus on their health, both physical and mental. They embrace diversity and spirituality, and are globally aware and driven to find solutions for all that ails the world.
Literally the up-and-comers, Gen Zers are those born after 1997, making them 22 and younger. The oldest are becoming adults, looking for their first jobs and either moving out or back into their parents’ homes. Along with their younger cohorts, they’re also stepping up to confront and resolve a variety of monumental issues, from gun control and climate change, to mental health awareness and inclusivity. This is a generation of highly educated, tech-savvy, principled and globally aware young people that should not be underestimated.
How to bridge the gap
Now that you have a better idea of who represents the various generations, do you find yourself curious about meeting, learning from and helping community members from generations other than your own? Consider volunteering. Not only does volunteering change the lives of others, it can make a remarkable impact on your life.
From cuddling newborns in need to helping school-aged kids learn to read, teens in foster care prepare to be on their own, young entrepreneurs launch a new business or seniors spend an afternoon engaged and entertained, volunteering can create greater understanding and acceptance of other generations.
Explore volunteer opportunities at Sharp.
After Robert O’Neill, then 81, unexpectedly found himself needing care in the Sharp Memorial ER, the hospital’s Healthy Aging Team helped him recover.