Every generation uses the phrase “kids today” with a tone of disappointment. After all, the generation in which we were born is always the greatest. It is those that come after us that may be the problem. In discussing subjects related to caregiving, it is helpful to learn about different aspects of each generation and how these affect values, experiences, lifestyles and attitudes.
Each generation has a descriptive coined phrase. Baby Boomers, now aged 44-62, were born after World War II by parents, called the Veterans who were influenced by the Great Depression. The Baby Boomers, born in what is often referred to as the Age of Aquarius were part of the spiritual awakening; they bore generation X, those now age 30-43. Generation X, encouraged to find meaningful employment, has children age 8-29 who are called Generation Y or the Millennials. This youngest group is connected at the hip to technology; most are users of Twitter, Facebook, email, text messaging and blogging as their methods of communication. The skill of interpersonal communication and written letters is a lost art when one can simply text.
These generational differences affect workplace and societal values. The Veterans, surviving the Great Depression and World War II, have a sense of seniority, respect for elders and people of authority. They save and do not waste resources. The Baby Boomers, influenced by consumerism and prosperity with both husband and wife working, share responsibilities and are motivated by money. Generation X was encouraged to find careers they love after watching their parents lose employment, employer loyalty disappear, working hours increase and success measured by productivity. The youngest generation while having high energy levels, are easily bored, globally oriented and demand fast results due to advances in technology. For both Generation X and Y, time off to experience life versus time worked remains important.
With such significant differences, how do we balance interpersonal discussions about caregiving needs and plan for a future when we will need care?
One generational challenge is varying life focus; family and loyalty versus money and self centeredness. Finding common ground to discuss aging and what each one of us wants the aging process to look like spiritually, financially, emotionally and physically will help generational differences narrow and promote commonality.
As we age and life events occur, many of us participate in rationalization. By this we offer an explanation to justify an action or event which may be based on an excuse and not rational thought. For example, your parent may not want to go to a senior center because the building is filled with old people. While they are old themselves, saying this allows them to avoid the reality that they are similar in any way to the old people attending the senior center. This defense mechanism allows us to make irrational choices and justify them to ourselves.
It is important to be honest with ourselves about our reasons for doing or not doing something, especially if we are avoiding a situation. When considering each decision we make and how it affects those around us we can create an environment that works together, so that in the event that we need help we can rely on those around us to support us in making practical, rational plans.
Advances in medicine in the past century have been significant transitioning from home remedies like grandma’s chicken soup to soothe a cold to modern vaccines. These generational issues present conflict when discussing what to do with a life changing health event. There is value in home remedies and traditions versus what might be seen as white coat medicine. How can we combine both today that results in a holistic plan to benefit the human body?
Fifty years ago many companies offered pensions and retirement plans to loyal workers. Today individuals hop from job to job with little sense of loyalty and a live for today attitude which means that money is not saved for the future. How can we realistically talk about tomorrow with regard to planning for aging and the need for care when the focus is on today? We need a balance of the past generation’s frugality combined with today’s knowledge of estate and retirement planning, health care and aging so that we can assist our parents; ourselves and our children to ensure we have the resources needed in later years.
We live in a society of processed foods. How many of us eat or make home cooked dinners? How many families sit down to share a meal? Fast food restaurants, take and bake food and processed foods are today’s trends yet not a healthy trend. Unhealthy lifestyles, diets and lack of exercise lead to diagnosis of multiple health conditions in mid-life. We know much more as a society today about healthy foods and diets than prior generations. By making changes and choices now we can change the future of our health.
Working parents and latch key children, we’re constantly busy and never at home. What once was a refuge and the center of family has become a landing base from which to go here and there. The pressure on children to participate in teams and clubs to advance their possibilities of acceptance into the right college and for working individuals to build business and social networks has resulted in a frenzied pace. When will we realize that it’s simply too much? Being constantly busy voids time for reflection and planning so that many of us arrive at advanced ages with no plans and in crises situations not knowing where to turn.
The Unites States is young compared to countries in Europe that have existed for centuries. We have experienced technological advances that many third world countries cannot even imagine. We also have a culture in love with youth and with extending youth. Men who fought World War II would never think of having eyebrows waxed or Botox treatments yet among the 20 and 30 something generations holding onto youth at all costs by having treatments have become common place. Older individuals able to walk without support discriminate against others of similar age who use walkers or wheelchairs. We hve become a society avoiding the eventuality of aging at all costs. But who will care for us when we are older? We all have a 100% probability of death.
Generational issues affect individuals and families today in all aspects of daily life. This has been happening for years. However with the aging of the Baby Boomers societal issues of dealing with aging populations and health care issues will no longer be avoidable. We will no longer be able to ignore the fact that we will all age and die. Now is the time for families to come together to discuss aging and health care with all generations; children, parents and grandparents.