Deciphering the growing generation gap - The Explorer: Columns

Deciphering the growing generation gap

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James C. Sandefer

Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 4:00 am | Updated: 9:15 am, Wed Nov 7, 2012.

recent survey completed by the Pew Research Center determined significant gaps in the way different generations (identified below) view the world. For instance, older folks are losing hope about the future of the country and their quality of life in general. Younger people tend to hold the notion that their best days are ahead of them and their quality of life will eventually settle into a comfortable daily routine. Here’s a quick glimpse of the generations:

Silent Generation

Born: 1928-1945

Current Age: 66-83

Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1964

Current age: 47-65

Generation X

Born: 1965-1980

Current age: 31-46

Millennials

Born: 1981-1993

Current age: 18-30

Those in the “silent generation” (ages 66 to 83) now consider Social Security as their top issue of concern with Medicare a close second. The first presidential election in which they would have been eligible to vote was in 1952, and Dwight Eisenhower was elected by a landslide. Many of them also witnessed and participated in the civil rights movement and mourned the death of President John F. Kennedy. When the oldest members of this generation celebrated their 25th birthdays, the Academy Award for best picture was awarded to the 1953 romantic film “From Here to Eternity,” and Audrey Hepburn won Best Actress for her role in “Roman Holiday.” The silent generation also witnessed one of the most amazing upsets in sports history when Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) defeated Sonny Liston to become the boxing heavyweight champion in 1964.

Currently accounting for 26 percent of the U.S. population, baby boomers (ages 47 to 65) are the largest and, over the past several years, the most despondent generation. Their population dominance led to a somewhat historic rise in demand for single-family housing, vehicular transportation, and road building. This generation was consumed by the Vietnam War, participated in the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and the 1969 Woodstock Festival. They were consummate rock-and-rollers. When the voting age was lowered to 18 with passage of the 26th Amendment, the first presidential election in which teens were eligible to vote was in 1972. Baby boomers continue viewing themselves as perpetually youthful and will try almost anything that comes along to sustain their presumed youth, with the typical boomer insisting that old age doesn’t begin until age 72 with some considering it a more cheerful sounding “Upper Youth.” When the oldest members turned 25, the Academy Award for best picture went to the 1971 action film The French Connection, and Jane Fonda won Best Actress for her role in Klute, but later recoiled as she seemed to turn on military members with a heinous act resulting in additional pain and suffering of prisoners of war being held in Hanoi—thereby dubbed “Hanoi Jane.” Baby boomers grieved after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and grimaced in disbelief during the Watergate scandal. They also saw the appointment of the first black Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, in 1967.

Generation X (ages 31 to 46) often considers themselves ignored and the “in-between generation.” These kids were the first generation of “latchkey kids” with dual-income/dual-career parents that experienced an escalating divorce rate among their boomer parents. They witnessed some historic events such as the end of the Cold War, the fall of communism and the actual dismantling of the Berlin Wall. They were on the cutting edge of technologically with the introduction of the Internet, and they became a highly entrepreneurial group. They were first eligible to vote in 1984 when Republican Ronald Reagan won a second term. When the oldest members turned 25, the Academy Award for best picture went to the 1990 epic “Dances with Wolves,” and Joe Pesci won Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Good Fellas.” Generation X applauded the end of apartheid in South Africa and the sale of the first Apple Macintosh computer in 1984.

The millennial generation (ages 18 to 30) is deemed to be the most diverse group from everything including ethnicity to personal interests. Millennials grew up in an environment of unrest and heightened security, coming of age in a post-Sept. 11 world. They are often referred to as digital natives and are routinely the initial consumers of the newest technologies and electronic gadgets. They were first eligible to vote in 2000. When the oldest members turned 25, the Academy Award for best picture went to the 2006 thriller “The Departed.” Though they were hard hit by the economic downturn, millennials remain more upbeat and optimistic about the future than any other generation.

There you have it, a quick glimpse at the various generations and a reminder of some historic happenings during their formative and adult years that impacted the way their lives were lived and are being played out today. While we can’t definitively or inarguably predict our future, it’s interesting to revisit the various generations and consider why and how they evolved.

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