My 60-year-old Aussie friend has been promising to communicate with me by email for 2 years. Her 20-year-old daughter left home after setting up her Gmail account and no one is around to help her in ‘this seemingly difficult endeavor’ (as she describes it). Last year, she managed to respond to my email twice during the weekend visit of her daughter. Whereas, another Aussie friend (who’s about ten years older than her) emails regularly and doesn’t miss an occasion to send me an electronic card (birthday, Christmas, Easter and Happy Australia Day).
Though the over 59yo men and women are quite diverse, generally, their knowledge is seemingly perceived as obsolete whilst youth is associated with progress and technological know-how. Old and young people have different interest, clothing taste and communication style at any one moment in time, which is described as intergenerational gap.
Generations are grouped by events (e.g. 9/11) and exceptional people (e.g. Steve Jobs) during each period: Baby boomers (1946 – 1964), General Xers (1965 – 1975), Generation Yers (1976 – 1980s), Millennials, Nexters and Me & I Generation (1980s – 1990s up to 2000), Generation Z (after 2000 – also known as Generation Multitasking/Skilling and WWW). The 2008 recession and current economic/financial crises have resulted to and continue to cause youth unemployment and poverty, which has significant consequences. One of these is that young people opt or are forced to live with their parents or relatives– a situation that can have positive impact on intergenerational gap.
Age is a diversity issue like gender, ethnicity and socio-economics: those with similar characteristics share the same viewpoints, outlooks, communication styles, etc. These diversity issues can be positive or negative factors in personal, social and professional life. While they can boast business and tolerance, they can also cause emotional (frustration and ill will), physical and economic drain and strife. For instance, Generation Xer bosses may require loyalty and dedication that young staffers consider impossible.
How do we narrow intergenerational gap? Within the family context, the magic word is availability – including less money but more time with children sharing their interest and views. In all other relationships, communication and understanding are primordial. Communication is hampered when there’s a lack of understanding. Likewise, we don’t understand each other because we don’t communicate openly. Young people complain that their teachers or employers interfere with their life; and because they learn and adopt fast, they see older people as comparatively slow decision-makers and are risk averse.
Generational traits, behaviors and values are not globally shared, e.g. young people in developing countries have a strong sense of extended family more than their counterparts in developed nations. However, the majority of the members of each generation – irrespective of where they are – have the overall generational traits and characters, such as net surfing, blogging and social networking of Generation Z.
Wherever you are and in whatever group you belong, it takes two to tango and the ingredients are:
Tolerance and non- judgmental attitude.
No setting of rules (e.g. don’t do it) that you can’t keep.
Establishing boundaries earlier on while developing trust and self-confidence.
If you’re a parent, be reasonable with forbidden things and exercise of authority as ‘all no’ can lead to rebellion; and if you’re a young person, don’t abuse independence and neglect responsibility.
Acquire and continue to develop knowledge and skills.
Be flexible in dealing with changes and changing expectations.
Last year, 2 of my young German students (20yo) who’re training to be bankers wrote on the end-of-the English course evaluation form, “She knows how to teach us and get on very well with young people.” I took the time to figure out if they sat next to each other as they had identical comments when I should have asked each of them for further explanation… but at that time I didn’t expect to write on intergenerational gap.
… till next fortnight!