We’ve gone from “Ok Boomer” to “Boomer Remover.” Are you outraged or amused? You likely have a visceral feeling one way or another that you can probably explain away by your personal views, who occupies your close circle of loved ones, or your attitude about such things in general. But what it may really come down to is where you fall in the generational breakdown.
A global pandemic affects everyone, regardless of the year you were born. But reaction to the coronavirus pandemic seems to vary greatly between generations. As Covid-19 expands its reach, now recorded in 177 countries and surpassing 70,000 deaths, the generational divides are beginning to fall away. Experts are expecting the coronavirus impact to get worse before it gets better. Will the ensuing months bring out the best or the worst in us collectively or generationally?
Each generation seems to be contending with the Covid-19 fallout in their own way, which may be a reflection of their generation’s coming of age story. Whether you grew up with post-war optimism or you’re (right now!) living through the world changing event that will define your generation, your view of the coronavirus may remain static until someone in your circle is directly affected.
Baby Boomers: The Hardest Hit Yet the Most Relaxed.
The Baby Boomer generation, those born between 1946 and 1965, have seen it all. They’ve lived through real and rumored catastrophes and are still here, through their own choices and determination. Some may see this outlook as stubborn but baby boomers have taken care of themselves, raised their children, and are watching their grandchildren grow. They feel they have earned the right to make their own decisions and they don’t need some kid telling them what to do, thank you very much.
If at this point they don’t feel Covid-19 is a big deal, it’s likely going to take a personal tragedy to change their mind. This invincibility mindset can be traced back to the fact that baby boomers were coming of age during post-War optimism. This optimistic attitude has carried them well throughout their life and continues strong today. Even as dire warnings flood the airways, some may refuse to change their ideas about the coronavirus or their daily behaviors.
However, baby boomers generally have a strong sense of altruism as they are more acutely aware of the legacy they are leaving behind. They want to make sure their loved ones are cared for and as they see younger generations negatively affected, they are more likely to be filled with concern. This concern may be more for society as a whole over their own personal wellbeing.
Gen Xers: The Lost Generation Finds the Most Struggle.
Those who fall into Generation X, born from the early 60s to the late 70s, were coming of age in the late 80s and through the 90’s. This first generation of latchkey kids were greatly shaped by the high levels of divorce during their childhood. Some argue that this is the most decisive experience influencing the way this generation shapes their own family life. Gen Xers harbor a lot of skepticism, are highly educated, and exercise caution and pragmatism. They are established in their careers and have a heightened emphasis on financial planning.
At this point in their lives, they are worried about elderly parents and educating their middle school aged children. They also worry about their own health and financial stability, especially in terms of how this will impact their parents and children.
Millennials: Yet Another Crisis.
Millennials, born in the early 80s to the mid-90s, may have differing perspectives depending on what point of the spectrum they were born. Older millennials have lived through life-defining crises such at 9/11 and The Great Recession. Like Gen Xers, they are well-established in their careers and have children. Their concerns are also likely aligned with the previous generation, threefold. They have young families and aging parents that depend on them being healthy and financially secure.
As for younger millennials, they are only a few years out of college and just getting started in their careers. They are more individualistic and don’t have as many family responsibilities or stressors. They do however have extreme stress surrounding their personal finances as the economy is tanking. They don’t have as much job security or investments to fall back on as their older counterparts. They may also have animosity towards older generations because they feel they failed to provide adequate safety nets to mitigate the fallout from such financial crises.
They have a heightened awareness of societal issues that are interconnected and affect all of humanity. Among the issues cited by millennials and Gen Zers are poor healthcare systems, non-living wages, climate change and homelessness.They feel these problems were created by the neglectful choices made by older generations but the responsibility of fixing them falls on the younger generations. They feel these issues are insurmountable yet they don’t receive the acknowledgement, support, encouragement, or tools needed from the perceived culprits. Hence, “boomer remover.”
Gen Z: ahhh to be Young and Carefree.
Yep, the majority spring breakers partying on Florida beaches were the older Gen Zers, those born in the late 90s through 2012. The first born in this generation are in their early 20’s, college age. They are young and individualistic. It’s important to remember that all generations were young and individualistic at this age, which our Gen Zers are living at this moment in time. They are essentially responsible for only themselves and just starting to make decisions as an adult. They are not yet accustomed to thinking of themselves as a small part of a greater whole.
Add these individualistic ideas to the early reports of the coronavirus not getting young people sick, and it’s easy to understand why spring breakers were undeterred. There are some other factors that make this the perfect storm. Gen Zers value facetime with their peers and are social, on and off the screen.
These early 20-somethings grew up during the peak of the “fake news” era. Plus, information comes at them at a head-spinning rate. They’ve always lived in a fast paced 24-hour or less news cycle. And, if they don’t like what they see in their news feed, they can simply switch to a different one and reinforce their pre-existing ideas. Or they can just wait a minute and they’re sure the headlines will change.
The worldwide financial crisis will certainly impact these older Gen Zers as they enter the workforce of an obliterated economy. They may be compared to those who were young adults during the great depression.
The younger end of this spectrum is at home with their parents. Whether they are inundating their folks with anxious questions or if they are eating up the extended spring break, the Covid-19 pandemic is going to affect them. It may very well be the defining event of their generation.
The Covid19 pandemic will affect us all for years to come, regardless of our age. However, it will likely have a more profound effect on Generation Z. They range from children barely old enough to understand the upheaval to very young adults who are in the infancy of their careers. The staggering unemployment is going to impact this generation more acutely than older ones.
Just as we conclude that the attitudes of middle aged and older adults today stem from major formative events during their coming of age years, we can assume that this worldwide pandemic will be the defining experience of Generation Z.
The Ironic Twist: Some are predicting a post-pandemic baby boom.