Last week we discussed the explosion of technological change and the accelerating growth of human knowledge. Because change has come so fast, the last three generations of Americans, Boomers, XGeners and Milennials, each grew up in very different worlds. There have always been differences between generations but in the past those differences were mainly the result of natural changes in the way peoples think as they mature and how their priorities change with age. Until the twentieth century change came slowly. From grandpa to grandson, folks worked, lived, traveled and communicated pretty much the same from generation to generation. All that has changed.
Demographers typically use thirty years to define a generation. Selecting what year a new generation begins is arbitrary and depends upon what the demographer is seeking to analyze or prove. For the purpose of our discussion, we’ve selected as our “Senior” generation those born between 1935 and 1965 (today they are 53 to 83 years old). We compare them with the “Latest” generation born between 1980 and 2010. (8 to 38) years old.
The half generation between these two are the “tweeners,” a not particularly interesting transition group consisting of the kids and grand kids of the “Seniors.” The “Seniors” include the “Boomers” and the “Latest” include the “Millennials.”
It is important to note that our conclusions are broad brush generalizations. There are a great many “Seniors” and “Latest” generation individuals who do not fit any stereotype. That being said, most of us will recognize the broad characteristics of each generation and appreciate the environmental factors that make them so different.
The “seniors” were the last “old school” generation. Their parents were “Americas Greatest Generation,” they endured The Great Depression and then saved World from Fascism in WWII. They built a golden age for their families. The freest and richest country on the planet’s economy was booming and life was good. Patriotism flourished. Their children grew up believing that America was the greatest country on Earth and even God knew it and blessed us. America was “small town.” Whether we lived in big cities, suburbs, small towns or family farms our neighborhood was our world. We knew the law enforcement, merchants, store owners and our neighbors. Growing up we baled hay, detassled corn, repaired our cars, painted our houses and changed our own faucets. The drug stores even had tube testers and a supply of TV tubes so we could repair our own TV sets. We were proud of our competence and independence. We went to work in the America’s factories and offices knowing that we had to earn our pay. There were no rewards for simply “participating.” We felt comfortable in the belief that we were in control of our own lives.
As time passed, little by little old skills and knowledge began to seem less relevant. Cars became too complicated to accommodate the “shade tree mechanics” and so have a lot of other things that we used to do for ourselves. Skilled trades succumbed to automation. Technological change came fast and furious. About the time you get comfortable with your computer, smart phone, software or applications along comes the next version and the old ones don’t work anymore. The changes don’t seem to make things better, just different. To make things even worse, your grandson thinks you’re doofus because you don’t Snapchat and didn’t even know that there is a feature length animation movie featuring The Emojis.
Next week we continue the battle of the generations.