Forget Generation X, Y, Z, and Baby Boomers

by Catherine Rickwood

Generational labels that divide.

Population divisions based on the year we are born.

What if we removed the labels and simply met each other as people, with a variety of wants, needs and challenges that span age?

What would happen to the smashed avocado debate then?

Recently I attended a discussion hosted by the IRT Foundation with Tom Tilley of JJJ’s The Hack and Ita Buttrose AO OBE, journalist, businesswoman, television personality, author, and currently co-host on Channel 10’s morning show, Studio 10.

It was lively. Whilst Tom calmly commenced the conversation by presenting the case for Gen Y, this all changed when Ita interrupted with a few snappy remarks. The morning continued with a sense of seriousness peppered with fun and playfulness.

It didn’t take long before it became evident that both wanted the same thing.

Affordable housing. Better education. Job opportunities.

The blame game serves no one. It can point the finger at and bring down an entire generation for something it did, didn’t do or currently does. It creates age stereotypes and ageism across all age groups. To what end?

Back to the smashed avocado.

During the discussion Tom Tilley suggested that Gen Y would need to sacrifice 9,000 smashed avocados to save a 20% deposit for an average priced house in Sydney. The inference the original article made to irresponsible Gen Y’s became nonsense.

Similarly the blame game attributed to baby boomers and the older population potentially being a drain on our economy due to their impact on the healthcare system (amongst other things) creates a portrait of millions of older people in a state of dependency due to physical and cognitive decline when this is largely untrue.

In my discussions with people over 50 it’s not uncommon for them to say: “I feel the same as when I was 25 [or in my 30’s, 40’s, 50’s]”.

They don’t feel old. Don’t classify themselves as old. Don’t consider their friends old. Old is something that happens in the future.

Intergenerational relationships, including people of all ages in our communities, our social circles, our daily lives, makes us all much richer and contributes to us enjoying healthier and happier longer lives.

I realise that generational labels may seem useful because it provides some insight as to how the world looked at the time of that cohorts birth which may frame their world view. Maybe it defines us. But then, maybe it doesn’t. Perhaps there’s more that we have in common than we realise. And maybe, if we stood united, we’d rise.  We’d innovate solutions for affordable housing and jobs for everyone.

What do you think?

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About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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