The Scoop on Generational Differences

Do you know the name of the generation you are a member of? In what generation are your family members, friends, colleagues? How does the generation we are in impact our lives?

On January 16th, PA Care Partnership sponsored an event entitled “The Times In Which You Were Born Decide Who You Are Today” presented by Dr. Veirdre Jackson, a world-renowned speaker, author, former LGI trainer, and all-around passionate advocate for nurturing and empowering all those with whom she interacts. You can read the very impressive list of qualifications, achievements, and associations of Dr. Jackson there as well as the link to the recording of the entire event.

Dr. Jackson began by inviting participants to answer the following question in chat: “What was hot for you when you were in high school?” The answers were amusing to Dr. Jackson and the hosts/Heal PA coordinators Nancy Massey and Jamal Ford. The shared responses such as bell bottom pants, various popular TV shows, and Baby Boomers recalling having home deliveries of milk, bread, and even pretzels and potato chips.

In the introduction to the event, Dr. Jackson states the following: “Understanding generational differences is crucial for effective communication and personal/ professional growth in today’s rapidly changing world. Each generation has unique characteristics shaped by historical events, trauma narratives, and cultural influences during developmental years. Could it be possible that no generation is better or worse than another?”

She invited participants to “Instead of taking sides, let’s examine ways to strengthen and regenerate our communities by promoting inclusion, understanding, and healing for more vibrant lives and more effective workplaces.”

The website shares the following: “Generations in the United States are defined as social groups of people born within a defined time period that share similar cultural traits, values, and preferences.”

What are the names of the various generations who are alive today?

Some of us may remember the book by Tom Brokaw, “The Greatest Generation” which chronicled the bravery and many challenges shown by those living during the Great Depression and World War II. This is a name that has stuck describing those who lived during these times. Those born before Baby Boomers were also known as the Silent Generation, known for being not highly communicative.

Dr. Jackson and others provide the following names and descriptions of the generations that followed:

  • Baby Boomer: born after 1946
  • Generation X: born after 1964
  • Millennial (Generation Y): born after 1980
  • Generation Z: born between 1995-2012
  • Generation Alpha: born between 2023 -2025

Some characteristics of each

  • Baby Boomers value relationships because they did not grow up with technology running their lives. They use phone calls and letter writing to connect with others, and like to play by the rules.
  • Generation X, considered the first “daycare” generation, are known for delaying marriage and childbearing in order to develop themselves.
  • Millennials (Generation Y) were raised by parents who were not authoritative but saw themselves as partners. Some used online dating websites to find their mates, most were blog-savvy. This was called, “the Me Me Me generation” who are known as being confident, entitled, and depressed.
  • Generation Z individuals were hooked on technology as toddlers, are known for working, shopping, dating, and making friends online. Their identity has been shaped by the digital age and climate anxiety.
  • Generation Alpha individuals are the first to experience remote classrooms, tablet computers, and streaming services from early childhood. They are the first generation to grow up for three years in a world touched by Covid. They often lived in isolation for the better part of these three years, which may have caused some mental health challenges and social anxiety.

Dr. Jackson wisely stressed that we should not stereotype anyone because of the generational category under which they fall. We also need to appreciate the many contributions of each generation, to learn to communicate, connect and listen carefully to what each needs in order to help all individuals experience mentally healthy lives.

I strongly encourage you to view the entire broadcast and also to do your own research online. You can also enjoy Dr. Jackson on her weekly show on VoiceAmerica, Living Strong: The Flip Side of Adversity.

Learning more about the various generations can make us all more aware, sensitive, and appreciative of what each generation may struggle with and how each contributes to the health and happiness of the world.

Invitation for Reflection

  1. How familiar are you with the information about the various generations?
  2. Does the generation under which you fall describe you personally? In what ways? 
  3. Are there things that surprised you? Anything you disagree with? 
  4. What else would you like to know about your generation? Other generations?
  5. How might this information help those in your life better understand themselves and others?