Mind Your Manners: Is The Generational Divide Stretching Further Than We Think?

For many of us, growing up and having a familial bond with parents and grandparents is a normal part of life. I fondly remember moments of my childhood, drinking lemonade while my wily old grandma, in her late 70s at the time, would tell stories about the sporting giants she remembered as a child and how she was amazed by what she could see on the television from those that played the same games today.

In the years since, times changed – as I got older, and moved away, things grew a little distant. We still spoke – less, and less frequently, but with the same love, care, and respect that made up our family bond. She recently passed away, at the age of 99, and I began to wonder – in the years before she passed, had we simply grown apart, or had we been divided by the wonders of the technologies that are meant to bring people together? For those who are studying a mental health counselor masters program online, understanding what makes or breaks family bonds can be an interesting case study. Let’s explore how they’ve changed over time, and how the generational divide is changing the way that we connect with family, both near and far.

The Benefits of Longevity – An Aging Society

One of the benefits of advanced medical technology is its ability to prolong life and improve the lives of elderly Americans. In 1870, the life expectancy of the average American was barely thirty-nine – a hundred and fifty years later, that has doubled, to an average of nearly 80 years.

In those hundred and fifty years, there has been immense development in the way that we treat and care for those who are ill or infirm. Some of those evolutions in treatment and care have been the inventions of penicillin, the discovery of vaccines for dangerous illnesses such as polio and rabies, as well as the transformation of the medical industry from barbershops and back alleys to a multi-trillion dollar behemoth, treating patients in a variety of facilities with a variety of care needs being administered.

When we live longer, we have more moments to spend with loved ones – more time to celebrate moments together, for family dinners and story-telling. The ability of inventors and scientists to prolong life has reaped immense personal benefit to all Americans – even if we don’t necessarily recognize their impact.

Maintaining Tradition Through Storytelling

It could be said that there is a gap between generations. A common internet trope is the like ‘okay, boomer’ – referring to the perceived inability of those of the Baby Boomer generation, born in the two decades following World War 2, to understand the issues faced by younger people, particularly Gen X (born 1965 – 1980) and Millennials (born 1981 – 1996).

The world has indeed, changed enormously since the time that Baby Boomers were born. Many Baby Boomers experienced the stories of wartime growing up, with a large chunk of them children or teenagers by the time of the Vietnam War. Millennials faced the transformative moments of the September 11 attacks – while Gen X were privy to the Gulf War.

Each generation has experienced uplifting moments, transformative experiences, and demoralizing moments. From market crashes to meteoric pop stars, every generation has had its fair share of transformative moments.

How do we begin to preserve those stories for future generations? How do we begin to preserve those precious moments that makeup America’s history? For some, that begins with storytelling – the art of sitting down with loved ones, sharing a beverage and a moment, and creating memorable moments that new generations will fondly remember in the years ahead.

If there’s something that life has taught me over the years, is that life is precious – and much like my grandma instilled her family stories in me through storytelling, I’ll one day be able to share those with my children and loved ones.

The Perils of The Wealth Gap

It can be said that the generation gap is made up of many things – wealth, being one of them. A wealth gap exists between the older and younger generations – in fact, recent research has found that in the last sixty years, the wealth gap has more than doubled. It’s much harder today for a young person to purchase a property or take paid time off – with the minimum wage not budging since the global financial crisis, young people have to work much, much harder for the goods and services that were once considered achievable fifty or sixty years ago.

A wealth gap can be perilous, and distressing, for both the young person and their elderly relatives. It’s expected that by 2045, Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation will pass down a whopping 72.6 trillion dollars – transforming the lives of their children, and equivalent to paying off the current US Federal debt – twice.

This wealth transfer will be hazardous and harrowing – financial stressors are a common reason for marital breakdown, and family relationships can be strained when wills and testimonies do not match the expectations of children. The transfer of wealth will be a transformative time for America – as long as it doesn’t destroy families in the process.

A Generation Gap, or a Generation Shift?

Is there a generation gap, or is it just a generation shift? It’s fairly simple to argue that Baby Boomers and Millennials are at war – after all, that seems to be the running plot of every second comedy these days – just ask Johnny Knoxville.

The differences between generations appear to be far more complicated than they first appear. They unite under a common cause and look to change the world for the better, transforming it in their unique ways. It seems much more likely that instead of a generation gap, rather, there’s a generation shift – with each generation learning through storytelling about the ways that the mistakes and challenges have shifted the world, and looking to change it for the better.

In the years ahead, new generations such as Generation Alpha and Beta will enter the world, as Millennials have children. By the time they grow up, the Boomers of today will likely be long gone – but as long as we have their stories, it’s almost certain they’ll still be remembered.

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