Is the generation gap growing wider or growing older or both?
The Generation Gap
The generation gap is alive and kicking
The generation gap is alive and kicking. Age prejudice still exists at both ends of life's timeline but the big difference is that gap has shifted upwards in years. As life gets tougher for twentysomethings it is getting easier for fiftysomethings. Will this tension make the age gap into a chasm or is there something that can be done to heal the wound?
Getting old is inevitable, growing up is optional
It's a worn out phrase that's been battered to death by greetings card companies the world over. Usually a legend to a photo of old people doing something childish. But it's a maxim that seems to resonate with the current crop of 'olds'. I'm coming up to mid fifties and don't feel old in the slightest (except when trying to drink with twenty year olds). My parents are long gone now but I wonder did they feel old in their fifties? They certainly behaved old, at least by modern standards and so did every other person of their generation who I came into contact with (apart from one rogue aunt who liked sports cars, golf and gin). Did their parents 'act their age' or were they even 'older' by the time they reached fifty. I'm talking now about successive generations who lived through the two world wars in their turn. Enough to prematurely age the best of them. To my grandparents, getting to fifty was an achievement. To my parents, passing sixty-five was pretty close to the finishing line. Now my generation is looking at the retirement goal post being moved back several years from what it is now. Not just because the semi-bankrupt Government needs to save money but because we are living much longer.
If we are all growing younger why is there still a generation gap?
I'm perhaps stating the obvious here. 'So long and thanks for all the fish' is a statement that belongs as much to the Baby Boomers as the Dolphins in The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. We all know that people are living longer and that the Silver Surfers have, for the most part, a great life on final salary pensions and real estate paid off and vastly inflated in value. But I think the gap between the young and the fifty plus demographic is just as great as it always was. In a survey of people in their late teens and early twenties the perception of their parents lives, values and behaviours remains as outdated and prejudicial as it always has been. The reverse is also true. The older generation have the same 'youth is wasted on the young' opinions as they always have done.
The real difference here is that the whole generation gap has shifted upwards. The gap remains the same, it merely occupies a different zone on life's timeline. Kid's don't seem to grow up until they are in their late twenties and early thirties. Old's are getting into their dotage in their eighties instead of seventies. I don't have hard evidence to back this up. But governments pushing back state pension ages, insurance companies pricing young drivers out of driving, maternity ages going up, everything points to the generation gap shift.
Generation Gap in the Fifties
Twenty First Century Generation Gap
The young have never had it so bad
Younger people today are inclined to think that the world is biased in favour of older people. “They want a special place on the bus” or “you can never get in the gym because it's an 'over 50's' class” or “no one wants to see wrinkly people in magazines”. I think there is an underlying feeling that older people are the 'have's' and the younger generation are the 'have not's'. There is some justification for the young feeling hard done by. It's harder to get a job, harder to get a mortgage, you pay for your education for the rest of your life. No wonder they just go down to the pub. The video below – Old Syd – reflects some opinions expressed by young people in a recent survey with a little humour and irony thrown in.
The older generation have never had it so good
As is the prerogative of the older generation, they commonly look down on the youth, probably tutting as they do, and observe that they are still partying into their late twenties when in their own youth they would have been working for ten years and already have a young family and a mortgage. If the older generation are living the high life it's because they are reaping the benefits of having already put in the hard yards. They are not ashamed to flaunt their 'youth' and vigour in the face of their kids. They deserve it. Okay they have benefited from spending the early part of their lives in one of the most peaceful and productive era's of the last century, but all you can do is make the most of the prevailing conditions and that they have done. The video below – Lollipop Man – is an expression of life for the average fifty something and above.
Lollipop Man - the lighter side of turning 50
Mind the gap
SAGA an insurance company specialising in the over fifties recently had a video competition to try to build a bridge across the generation gap by showing older people in a positive light and for the older generation to appreciate some of the perspectives of an increasingly estranged younger generation.
There is no doubt that the generation gap is growing wider and also shifting up the age scale. Perhaps it's time for the older generation, particularly in government, to give the younger generation a helping hand and for the younger generation to not be too proud to accept it.
I'll leave you with a message of inter-generational harmony -
An older man announced he was to marry a young actress on his seventy-seventh birthday.
'Be careful,' his doctor warned him, 'prolonged sex with a girl that young could be fatal.'
The old man shrugged, 'if she dies, she dies.'