Sophie Lutz, our Women’s Wisdom columnist explores the lessons Covid has taught each generation and how we can begin to relate better to people of all ages.
There is a lot of intergenerational fighting going on online. Millennials and Gen Z vs Boomers. The pitting of the Silent Generation’s stoicism against the snow-flakery of the young by certain segments of the media. Meanwhile us Gen-Xers pass the popcorn and note that we are being as neglected as always with a wry smile.
There is a sense of indignant hostility to the idea of those generational labels that increases with age. When did we become the enemy we wonder? We rail against the notion that the young have anything to teach us as much as they dismiss out of hand the wisdom that we might have to offer. And yet each generation, has lessons for the other. The pandemic and our response to it has affected age groups so differently. Digging into the differences increases empathy, and the realisation that we all have something to learn from our sisters of other ages.
The Silent Generation. Born 1928-45. Aged 76 to 93 in 2021
Covid-19 has hit this generation hard. They are most at risk of serious illness, asked to shield and isolate. Known for keeping their heads down uncomplainingly, their stoicism belies their suffering. Perhaps most likely to say they are fine, whether or not they are, we can learn from their ability to keep going in the toughest of circumstances, but they need to learn that talking about their feelings and asking for help are not signs of weakness.
Baby Boomers Born 1946-64. Aged 57 to 75 in 2021
Envied by the young for their luck: condemned for having fiddled while the planet burned. Growing up in a time of relative affluence, when housing was affordable and living standards were high, Covid has been their first big challenge. While Boomers have felt by turns angry and depressed by the restrictions placed on them. They could remember that the structures that have supported their lives so well, do not provide the same security for the generations behind them.
Gen X Born 1965-80. Aged 41 to 56 in 2021
The most financially hard hit by Covid, GenXers are providing 360-degree caregiving for their children and their parents, whilst still in peak bread winning years. Those able to work from home have had home-schooling needs to contend with, whilst those needing to be out in the workplace have had the stress of difficulties in securing childcare, as well as inability to visit elderly parents. Gen X can teach us resilience and independence, but need to learn to lean on each other, and allow the generations sandwiching them to lend a hand.
Gen Y/Millennials Born 1981-94. Aged 27 to 40 in 2021
Much maligned Millennials are less likely to be married or have children than any generation preceding them. They have been hit with wave after wave of disaster from 9/11 to the financial crisis. Priced out of the housing market, many of them have had to move back to their parents for Covid. Mental health in this most self-aware of generations has been hit hard… Widely derided and scorned in the media for their avocado toast lifestyle, this generation deserve our empathy. The days of mass house ownership and job security are long gone, and Millennials are in need of our support. Their reflexivity is to be applauded, and we could all take a leaf out of their questioning and status quo challenging book.
Gen Z Born 1995-2009 Aged 12 to 26 in 2021
The generation that should have been forming friendships, partying, starting Uni have all had to contend with the hole that Covid has torn into their world. A year at this age is a lifetime and no doubt Gen Z will become known as the Covid Generation for the severity of the impact on their development and their lives. The mental health toll of Covid is most acute in this generation, and the effect of lack of social contact can not be underestimated. All the evidence suggests that contrary to some media coverage, Gen Z have adhered magnificently to the rules. This is the generation that have grown up with BLM, MeToo, and we can only hope that these change makers take the Covid earthquake and forge a new way forward for us all.
What we can takeaway
Covid has made every generation realise that relationship is everything. Let’s hug our Silent Generation and Boomers, making sure we stay in more regular contact than we did before. Lend a hand to our Gen X caregivers and our financially squeezed Millennials. And let’s give Gen Z the respect they deserve. All of the previous generations messed up. Let’s support Gen Z in changing this world to one of greater equality, where we look after each other, and the planet, far better than before Covid woke us all up to what’s important.