Genning Up

2nd June 2017

The generation in which we grew up defines us just as much as our nationality, class or gender; it informs our values, our outlook on life, and probably even our economic status. As we approach the General Election, politicians are going out of their way to tweak their policies to keep each age bracket happy. But when the media refers to Baby Boomers, Generation X or Millennials, do we really understand who they’re talking about?

Lisa Bowright finds out more…

Generation Z

WHO ARE THEY?

Our teens, born from the late 90s/early noughties onwards. Mostly unable to vote just yet.*

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO THEM?

Their smartphones. The boundary between the online and offline world is blurred in a way that’s unfathomable to the older generation. Since Gen-Z have grown up under the scrutiny of social media, image is everything. It’s not uncommon for teens to have two or more accounts within the same virtual community: one to present a carefully cultivated public persona, and another that allows them to drop their guard (slightly) to their closest friends.

The recent changes to GCSEs – criticised by many teachers for being overly-challenging – mean that academically, as well as socially, our teens are under more pressure than ever.

ADVANTAGES?

Numbers-wise, they’re probably going to be a smaller generation than the Millennials. This will hopefully mean less competition for jobs, although it’s likely that the jobs they’ll be doing won’t even exist yet. WhatsApp historian anyone?

DISADVANTAGES?

Education experts are worried that young people’s attention spans are dropping. Sorry, where was I?

ICONS OF THE ERA?

Joe Sugg (above), Caspar Lee, Alfie Deyes, Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, Selena Gomez.

Millennials (AKA Generation Y)

WHO ARE THEY?

Our twenty-somethings, born between the early 80s and mid/late 90s; so called because they came of age at the dawn of the new Millennium.

WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO THEM IN THEIR CHILDHOOD?

They grew up with Harry Potter and hold the books and films in deep sentimental reverence. Simon Cowell is their tv-uncle and his omni-influence means they were obsessed with being ‘spotted’ and launched into fame and fortune.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO THEM NOW?

They’re miffed that the older generation haven’t ‘paid-forward’ and that life is now much harder for them now, professionally and economically. Getting on to the property ladder is the stuff of fantasy, they feel –with some justification when you consider that in the 1970s, adults had to borrow only three times their salary to buy a home; now it’s seven times. Since it’s harder to establish a meaningful career, they admire the vloggers who’ve achieved success purely down to verve, vivacity and an enviable knack of harnessing social media to their own ends.

ADVANTAGES?

Youth and beauty. In our youth-centred society, Millennials are seen to be in the prime of their lives!

DISADVANTAGES?

They are criticised for being more self-absorbed and less resilient than previous generations.

ICONS OF THE ERA?

Harry Potter, the Kardashians and the Jenners, Cara Delevingne (below), Gigi Hadid, Zoella.

Generation X

WHO ARE THEY?

Now in their late 30s to early 50s (‘middle youth’ as they like to call it), this generation (named after the 1991 Douglas Coupland novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture) were born during the mid-1960s to the late 1970s.

WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO THEM IN THEIR YOUTH?

The ‘second summer of love’ of the late 1980s introduced the rave scene that came to define the generation and which grew into the ubiquitous multi-million pound club scene that still dominates popular culture.

Free or subsidised tuition fees democratised university degrees, and – despite the post-Thatcher crash – there was a general sense of optimism that exciting careers were within their reach.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO THEM NOW?

A shared obsession over Zoopla property values and whether they’re in catchment for the local outstanding Ofsted school.

A reluctance to let go of their hedonistic youth has filtered down into a fondness for glamping, family festivals and holidays in Ibiza.

ADVANTAGES?

Most have benefited from the surge in property prices.

DISADVANTAGES?

Work-life balance is a struggle with huge mortgages to pay and exorbitant childcare to juggle. Pensions are a worry.

ICONS OF THE ERA?

Madonna, Prince, Frankie Knuckles, Pete Tong, Prodigy, Oasis, Blur, Kate Moss, Alexander McQueen.

The Baby Boomers

WHO ARE THEY?

Born mid-1940s to mid-1960s during the post-war ‘boom’ in births, our BBs are now in their early 50s to early 70s.

WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO THEM IN THEIR YOUTH?

Carving an identity that was a complete contrast to the values and restraint of their parents. In the 1960s, the first teenage generation free from national service emerged in Britain, into a buoyant economy, heralding a cultural explosion of exciting new music and youth-orientated fashion.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO THEM NOW?

This generation have the highest disposable income and after a lifetime of working hard, many enjoy the fact that they’re in a position to indulge in the finer things in life: theatre trips, nice restaurants and holidays abroad.
It’s not all plain sailing though, financially speaking. Low interest rates and economic uncertainty are eating into their pension pots, and they’re faced with the high cost of caring for dependants: whether that means helping their adult children buy their first properties (will they ever leave home?), caring for elderly parents – or both.

ADVANTAGES?

They’ll tell you that they invented ‘the teenager’ and that the Swinging Sixties was the most exciting time in modern British history.

DISADVANTAGES?

Middle-aged health niggles. They remember when they could refer to their knees as right and left, instead of good and bad.

ICONS OF THE ERA?

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan, Tamla Motown, Twiggy, Mary Quant, Andy Warhol.

The Silent Generation

WHO ARE THEY?

Born between the mid-1920s and the mid-1940s, the Silent Generation – so called because they were largely encouraged to conform with social norms – are some of our most senior citizens, now in their 70s, 80s and 90s*. (Before them were the ‘Greatest Generation’, who came of age just before and during World War II, and who are now mid-90s and above.)

WHAT WAS IMPORTANT TO THEM IN THEIR YOUTH?

Their childhood was largely over-shadowed by the war, with loved ones away fighting, and the constant threat of bombing – especially for those living in London. Ironically though, despite the danger, this generation report a childhood full of freedom, with plenty of opportunity to socialise with friends. Young adults enjoyed dances and trips to the cinema.

WHAT'S IMPORTANT TO THEM NOW?

Keeping in touch with family – possibly grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and the company of old friends.

ADVANTAGES?

All the knowledge gained from a lifetime of experience.

DISADVANTAGES?

Adjusting to inevitable loss and bereavement.

ICONS OF THE ERA?

Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby, Vera Lynn, Frank Sinatra, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn.

*There’s some debate about the exact birth years of each
generation: the age/category bands suggested here are just a (light-hearted) guide and are not intended to be definitive…

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