Debunking The Generation Gap

Baby Boomers, you’ve probably heard a lot about the millennials. And millennials, I’m sure you’ve heard a thing or two about the Silent Generation. So, where did these generational delineations come from, and what about the stereotypes that accompany them?

The Generation Gap is defined as “differences of outlook or opinion between people of different generations.” It’s often used to explain perceived differentiation between people of varying ages and feeds some of the generalities made about the behaviors of people in different generations. It could help explain why you may get some skeptical looks when you bring up intergenerational living to your friends or family members! 

Take a look at the chart below to see where generations are commonly divided:

It’s easy to make assumptions about people based on when they were born. But, does our age define our opinions, talents, interests, and motivations? A study from the Cambridge University Press on intergenerational differences in the workplace says, not so much. In their words, “there is little solid empirical evidence supporting generationally based differences and almost no theory behind why such differences should even exist.” Simply put, you might have more in common with a differently-aged roommate than you think! 

Take technology use–this is a classic example of something that is often seen as a dividing force between generations. Millennials and Gen X-ers have a reputation for being too tech-dependent while Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation are seen as being out of touch with technological advances. However, a recent study from the Pew Research Center showed that that older generations are adopting technology at high rates. Nearly 70% of Baby Boomers have a smartphone! And just as interesting, while the rates of social media use have stayed steady for Millennials in the past several years, they have grown by at least 10% for both Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation. 

All this to say, the generation gap might not be so very big after all! If you’re thinking about ways to make connections with people of different age groups, intergenerational living could be a good fit for you. It’s a fantastic opportunity to get to know someone of different ages, debunk myths, learn a new perspective, and share what you know with another person!

Aging in the 21st Century: Challenge and Opportunity

Odd Couples Housing has the pleasure of working directly with Dr. Brian Carpenter, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Carpenter, whose research and teaching focuses on aging, has a pulse on the challenges and opportunities of an aging society. He offers new perspectives and raises important questions about the changes we’ll face in our homes, communities, and the national front, as the U.S. population grows increasingly silver. At Odd Couples Housing, we’ve learned much from Dr. Carpenter  to support our mission to create a sustainable future through inter-generational home sharing.

Recently, Dr. Carpenter recorded a brief Ted Talk style lecture that highlights key themes for those considering inter-generational living. We recommend you watch it. The graphics are particularly powerful. Below, we’ve summarized the main take-away from Dr. Carpenter’s talk and we’ve posed a few questions to help you think about our aging society.

Did you know the world’s population is aging? 

The number of adults over the age of 65 has grown steadily over the last 100 years, and it is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future. As the baby boomer generation ages, we will see more and more people living into their later life. In fact, we are already seeing the demographic shift towards an older population, with expectations that the U.S. population over the age of 65 will double by 2060. Interestingly, the age group that is growing the fastest in terms of its proportion of the total population are our centenarians, or those over 100. 

How will this affect your own life, now and in the future?

What are the implications of an aging society?

In coming years, our population will begin to resemble the demographics of Florida, where approximately 20% of the population is over 65 years old. This shift towards an older demographic will impact many areas of our daily lives. It will affect health care, transportation, technology, finances, travel, leisure, culture, and of course, housing.

Where do you see indications that the U.S. is growing older?

What about Aging in Place?

Many older adults prefer to stay in their homes and communities as they age. While aging in place has many advantages, there are also challenges on many fronts.  Physical changes can impact mobility, cognition and ability to live independently. Financial changes can threaten a person’s ability to maintain a home. Changes in social networks might mean that a person is more isolated in their home.

Have you thought about where you or your loved ones would like to age? How will you plan to meet their needs?  

Why is remaining socially connected so important?

Staying connected to a social network or support system is vitally important for people throughout their lives.  As we grow older, the psychological benefits of social engagement are particularly powerful. Research indicates that strong social networks are associated with lower risk of depression and dementia, and higher life satisfaction. 

What do you do to stay connected to your friends and social networks?

How does inter-generational connection help?

Socializing with people across age groups is a vibrant form of social connection. Through inter-generational interactions, both younger and older people can learn new skills and perspectives that help to break down age-related stereotypes. When we spend time with different generations, we are more likely to engage with people as individuals, rather than lumping them into a trope or stereotyped category. 

How can you connect more frequently with individuals from another generation? 

If this has piqued your interest, Dr. Carpenter makes many more fascinating points about what it means to live in an aging society in his full talk. Consider setting aside ten minutes of your day to watch! 

What are the challenges and the opportunities we will face in years ahead in response to the aging of our population?