As an organization, Age Equity Alliance has advocated for the discontinuation of generational labels. The reasons are many, but a recent meeting gave me another example of why.
I’ve never identified with a generational label. Technically, being born in 1964 made me a Boomer. But since my Dad was born in 1945, he was also a Boomer. That should have been a big clue right there that generational labels were bunk.
As the years passed, I always found something about the assigned characteristics of each cohort that resonated. Loyalty (Silents). Hard-working (Boomers). Work/Life Balance (Gen X). Close to parents (Millennials). Inclusivity (Gen Z). That should have been another big clue. Bunk, bunk, bunk.
I occasionally referenced age cohorts when I began writing for Forbes more than three years ago. Looking back, I see how naive it was. And lazy. As I wrote in a recent LinkedIn post, it didn’t take long to realize my mistake.
I began to notice how much overlap there was between the groups. And, I started to see how the use of generational labels perpetuated age bias and stereotypes. Not only were they driving people apart, but the characteristics associated with these arbitrarily assigned age groups were not scientifically derived at all.
Pseudoscience, At Best
While researching this topic for a Forbes article, I found more evidence than I could use confirming the uselessness of age cohorts.
Generational labels are so ineffective that there is now a new category for “elder Millennials.” Of course, it isn’t more effective at showing similarities in opinions and behaviors; it was meant to separate the older Millennials from the younger ones.
Here’s the reality.
What we believe, how we behave, what we value… is individual. It has never been, nor will it ever be, consistent across any age demographic.
There is no scientific relevance to generational labels, making them nothing more than pseudoscience.
A Perfect Example
Last week I was on a call with two collaborators in the age space. We were all considered “Boomers,” with gaps of about five years between each of us. As one spoke about Woodstock and how the 60s and 70s encapsulated drugs, sex, and rock and roll, the other on the call said that was not her experience at all.
As for me, the youngest of the three, the first major event I remember is Apollo 13 landing on the moon. In the 8th grade, I took my first flight from north Alabama to Michigan. Because I had a layover in Chicago, my parents warned me to be wary of followers of Hare Krishnas, who at the time were known for pressuring new followers to join or hand over money. I went through the airport, guitar in hand, without incident (other than carrying around the fear my parents imprinted on me)!
The meeting reminded me of how three people can be present for an occurrence, and still, each will describe it differently.
It’s about perspective.
And Another Thing
In her article Against Generations, Rachel Onion writes that “Generational thinking is seductive and confirms preconceived prejudices, but it’s a bogus way to understand the world.”
How about you join me in the movement to eradicate them?
And, while we’re at it, why not get the U.S. government to stop referring to those aged 65 and older as elderly?
Ah, a story for another time!