Generation Stereotypes – Are they accurate?

This may seem like a sociology paper, but I want to discuss and share what I have observed from people and the generation stereotypes that go along with them, so that maybe we can learn a few things and gain some understanding for others.

I get to meet lots of different types of people, due to my job as an ER nurse for the last 20 years. Not just different socio-economic groups, but different generations of people. I like to study and talk to people, of all levels, and find out what’s their story. Everyone has emergencies at some point in their life so I feel like I have seen a good sampling of the population. This blog is not to criticize certain generations, but to get a better understanding for each and to be more empathetic.  God commands us, Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.   Ephesians 4:2.                                  

For instance, I had a 85-year-old man yesterday, fall in the bathroom and break his hip.  His leg is completely deformed, shortened and outward rotated.  He refused pain meds.  States he was “ok”.  He even managed to joke with his wife.  Wow.  I explained how we have to move him, and he still refused the meds.  But, he is just one example.  I see this generation all the time and they usually don’t complain, whine or argue.  They are more worried about their spouses than themselves.

Literally, a room away at the same time, I have a girl born in 1993, of The Millennial Generation, who came into the ER for chest pain, 10/10 pain.  This girl is on her phone, in no acute distress, breathing normal, watching TV.  Really, 10/10?  She is asking for pain meds and wants to know why it is taking so long to see the doctor.  She complains about the IV hurting and asks for a pillow and socks.  Wow.  But, literally I see this all the time.

How have we become so different?

I will break down each generation and explain each stereotype.

The G.I Generation & The Silent Generation

Elderly man portrait at outdoor shot

This group born 1900-1924, The G.I. Generation, and the next generation, The Silent Few, born 1925-1935.  These folks are no joke.  Tough cookies, I call them.  They literally take a licking and keep on ticking, and without complaining.  My dad was born in this generation and even though he is passed away, I see his personality traits in so many like him, born of the same time.

These people came to age during the great depression and were affected by WW II.  Most of them didn’t have TV’s (till late 1940’s), cars, phones, and they only used one square of toilet paper.  They had pride, respected authority, and wore dress clothes most of the time.  They liked stability, and lived in the same house and stayed at the same job for their whole life.

I like these generations because they can talk to people, they can tell stories.  They naturally don’t put themselves before others.  They work hard, and don’t quit, because they wanted better lives for their family.  They have been through some rough times, so they have great perspective.  They are not dramatic or attention seeking.

This generation is dying off and it is so sad.  We can learn a lot from them about respect and hard work.  If you know someone aged 80 plus, take advantage of the time you have with them.

The Baby Boomers

Group of seniors

Then you have The Baby Boomers, born in the mid-1940’s to mid-1960’s.   These people born post WW II, were like an earthquake to America.  They were divided between the conformist who developed suburbs and taught women how to be a good wife (TV shows Make Room for Daddy and Father Knows Best), and the anti-conformists who were hippies and listened to Rock-and-Roll.  This generation did want they wanted and had the money to do it.  They wanted the American Dream and worked hard to get it.  They tend to be self-absorbed and materialistic.  They had the highest divorce rate in history at that time.

Major life events were The Vietnam War, President Kennedy  and Martin Luther King assignations, the Feminist Movement and Woodstock.

Wow, this generation lived through a lot of big changes.  We can learn a lot about history from them.  They had great music and a desire for peace and love.

Gen X

Smiling mature couple standing in contemporary home

Born to baby boomer parents, somewhere between 1965-early 80’s, also know as latch-key kids and the MTV generation.  Where you were told to go play and don’t come home till dark.  A generation that lived in a world that was more focused on adults than kids.  Look at some of the movies, Sixteen Candles, Goonies, ET, and Ferris Bueller’s Day off.  The kids did what they wanted and the parents barely knew what was going on.  Divorce rates were high among the parents and children learned independence early on.  Because of this freedom, resentment, laziness, and “whatever” attitudes were prevalent.  Grunge and alternative rock, which were born during this time, show these attitudes.  Also shows like Friends, portrayed Gen Xers as laid-back, social and fun.

Because of this early freedom, Gen X are great thinkers, entrepreneurs, and workers who don’t need the focus to be on them.  We can learn from their creativity and ability to fly under the radar.

This is my generation and I can say for myself, that we definitely had a lot of freedom, and I lived with both parents and my mom was a stay at home mom.   We were just not micro-managed like kids are today.  I think because our generation had such absentee parenting, is why we started helicopter parenting for the next.

Millennials/Gen Y

Portrait of three friends taking photos with a smartphone.Group of young people laughing and doing a selfie in cafe.

Oh, the Millennials, born early 1980’s-late 1990’s, aka the Me Generation,  The generation raised under helicopter parenting, where the parents hovered over children, protecting them from harm, making decisions for them and giving them schedules and playdates.  Millennials have been coddled from birth.  Also know as “trophy kids”, because this is the first generation where everyone wins.  This generation is accused of being lazy, entitled and narcissistic (selfie crazy)!

They grew up during the recession of the late 2000’s and because of this, many have not been able to find work right out of college.  This has prolonged many life goals such as getting married, having children, and moving out of their parents house.  These kids are now mid-late 20’s and they cannot seem to grow-up.

On the upswing, Millennials are the least prejudice and most accepting generation. They also are tech savvy and accommodating to change.  They also have higher volunteering rates than past generations and a “save the world” attitude.  They are the largest generation at the current time.

I think Millennials have an over-inflated bad reputation.  So much of the stereotypes are a result of helicopter parenting and the economy.  They may be a little dramatic and need some positive reinforcement, but there are a lot of Millennials that just might save the world.

Gen Z/Post-Millennials

Group of diligent schoolchildren looking at camera in school

Born 2000’s to current, this generation is yet to be formally named.  Gen Z are going to be the most tech savvy, never knowing a pre-internet world.  They are possibly more cautious than Millennials because they lived through 9/11 and the recession in their early childhood.  These children have to compete on a global level for jobs and may no longer seek college for safe jobs, like doctor or lawyers. These kids know where to find answers and are able to network.  They are used to getting answers quickly and can be impatient. ADHD, autism and spectrum disorders are common.  It will be interesting to see how this generation developes.

So there you have it.  The last 100+ years of generations.  As you can see, there is quite a variance in each.  Learning to understand where each is coming from will help us all be more empathetic.

What observations have you discovered? Does your generation suit you?


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