Like Abe Simpson says, “I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.” No individual is immune to the forces of the generation they grow up with, the generation that raises them, and, increasingly, by the age that comes after them.
The generational divide between “baby boomers” (born 1946-1964) and millennials and generation Z feels particularly intense. In 2019, the viral internet meme “ok, boomer” unveiled the younger generations’ unresolved frustrations. But why do these tech-savvy social justice warriors keep their distance from the baby boomers of today?
Below are six misconceptions about baby boomers that are dividing generations today.
Technology has exploded during baby boomers’ lifetimes, from the first color television in 1953 to supercomputers that fit in your pocket today. One undeniable gap between baby boomers and their younger counterparts is the advent of the internet: millennials and Generation Z are the so-called “digital natives,” whereas baby boomers lived half of their lives without the information superhighway.
Many boomers don’t have the technological fluency of a teenager growing up in the digital age, but that doesn’t mean that they’re technologically inept. Boomers embrace technology just as much as Zoomers, especially with senior-friendly technology like The Wow Computer paving the way. Computers and smartphones can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be impossible to understand for these tech-beginner boomers.
Millennials have lived through two recessions in their lifetimes, with a nightmarish housing market to boot. Meanwhile, baby boomers grew up in the age of post-war prosperity, when college tuition was lower than ever. The popular conception is that baby boomers are lounging in the wealth of their golden years while telling young adults just to stop drinking so much Starbucks, and they can spend those savings on a home.
Of course, real life is much more complicated. Though many seniors benefited from economic prosperity in their younger years, costs are tightening as they age. Many seniors are caught between the healthcare costs of their parents, themselves, and the college tuition of children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, when it comes to the financial stresses of the modern age, boomers and millennials have more in common than one might think.
In hindsight, maybe “The Me Generation” wasn’t the best nickname. Admittedly, the baby boom generation has a reputation for hoarding wealth, and many young people lay the national deficit at their feet. Though there may be greedy boomers, the group, on the whole, is poised to give away around $8 trillion in the next twenty years. How’s that for philanthropy?
The United States saw multiple civil rights movements during boomers’ lifetimes. As a generation that lived through segregation and diminished financial freedoms for women, the stain of America’s past is on the backs of baby boomers. However, it’s important to remember that, though some boomers may have opposed civil rights, it was other boomers who marched against them.
Many children of the Greatest Generation face age discrimination in the workplace, at least partly due to the conception that they’re more expensive to employ than younger prospects. Though baby boomers may have higher healthcare costs and aren’t shy about using their annual leave, they are also more loyal to employers than later generations. While millennials may be prone to job-hopping, baby boomers are more likely to stick around for the long haul.
Though it’s true that there are often patterns within generations, you’ve probably noticed that this article does a lot of generalizing. It’s important to remember that no matter which generation you belong to, individuals will always vary. Just like not all millennials love avocado toast, not all boomers will think, feel, or act the same way.
Misconceptions can lead to resentment and divide generations. With a bit of myth debunking and intergenerational communication, Americans can bridge the generational gap together.