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THE BOOMERS’ BIGGEST BURDEN

The dad's of 1960 had no idea what the future held. Neither did anyone else. We still don't. That's how it works. via Ashlee Gillaspie

The dad’s of 1960 had no idea what the future held. Neither did anyone else. We still don’t. That’s how it works.
via Ashlee Gillaspie

(one version of this post appears on oregonlive.com.)

News about one generation or another usually explains what is wrong. Bad news has a reputation.

Good news? Who wants to hear about someone doing better than you?

Seniors being preyed on by unscrupulous contractors or relatives is always news. So are young people trying to create an identity they believe in.

Start with the Greatest Generation from WWII having trouble coping with the modern world. They feel alone, isolated from the wonders they hear about the online world because it’s too hard to get it right.

They haven’t adapted well to the sharing economy, or the communication technology that vexes them.

They need you.

These are people who grew up writing letters, thank-you notes, and speaking to each other face to face. They might disagree with one another, but they do it with manners.

They still value personal effort and the time it takes to follow through. They appreciate the same characteristics in others.

The Greats were young adults at the beginning of WWII, and aged warriors by the end in 1945, beat down by the grizzly memories of total war.

The first members of the baby boomer generation, born between 1946-1952, arrived once the veterans got home from Europe and The Pacific.

Then the fun started.

Kids during the Great Depression, the Silent Generation was too young for WWII, but just right for the Korean War in 1950 where they joined recalled veterans of WWII.

These men and women produced the beginnings of the Middle Boomers from 1952-1958. That’s my group. Our grandparents were the Greats.

Late Boomers, born 1958-1964, are as removed from the first two groups as the generations that followed. They might be at the end of a large early boomer family, or had Silent Gen parents, but the ground had already been staked out by then with battle lines drawn.

The generation gap between boomers and their parents widened with each new release from the Rolling Stones and Beatles.

Generation X, along with Generation Y, or Millennials, heard about the sixties and seventies. They saw movies and read books about those days to the point of reintroducing their own version of hippies and counter culture.

At least they dressed the part.

 

Older boomers amuse themselves watching the re-run of their youth play out today. How can there be a true hippie in 2014? The same way you saw hippies in 2004, 1994, 1984, and ’74. It’s a strong vibe to follow and everyone’s welcome.

With the pride in creating a cultural shift in America that’s still valid today comes a certain regret. Online communication trumps meeting in person. Smart phone texting replaces a simple phone call. Social media interaction means never having to bother seeing people in real time.

For every boomer parent laughed at by their kids when they ask for tech help, there’s another group who stopped asking for help years ago.

Members of the Greatest Generation have no more use for Facebook than they did Myspace. Twitter seems short winded with its 140 character maximum. Why would they care about networking on LinkedIn? Show a ninety year old a PlayStation or Xbox and they might try and tune in a radio station.

If you’re not streaming Netflix, what’s wrong?

Baby Boomers of all stripes have a new mission in life as a result of the technology divide. We know about the experience and wisdom of our elders because we’ve been trying to catch up to them all our lives.

How will Millennials benefit from them if they only accept information on phones, tablets, or laptops?

Great-Grandpa finally wants to tell his D-Day story, but is it better than Saving Private Ryan?

Grandpa tried explaining how South Vietnam fell so fast that Americans and Vietnamese both needed to be evacuated from the embassy rooftop in Saigon.

Young people have taken social media to heart at the exclusion of the greatest wisdom bank on earth. Boomers need to bridge that gap in spite of their own doubts about new gadgets and platforms.

How often do you fake it through an introduction to a new phone until you figure it out on your own?

 

Instead of reviewing the old saw about get a haircut and a real job, boomers need to reconcile their differences with generations on either side of them. They need to become an information conduit.

Merle Haggard is no one’s idea of a family counselor, but he got it right with ‘Momma Tried’:

The first thing I remember knowing
Was a lonesome whistle blowing
And a young’un’s dream of growing up to ride
On a freight train leaving town
Not knowing where I’m bound
And no one could change my mind but Mama tried
One and only rebel child
From a family meek and mild
My mama seemed to know what lay in store
Despite all my Sunday learning
Towards the bad I kept on turning
Till Mama couldn’t hold me anymore

Dear Boomer, Mama needs you to hold her now, hold her pride and self esteem so she finds a comfortable place in social media. She wants to tell her friends about staying in touch with everyone she knows, as well as new friends she finds.

Daddy needs you, too. He wouldn’t say mud if he had a mouthful, so it might be a little harder to break through. Find websites on his favorite things and set him up. Light a fire under him the way he did you, with love and concern. That’s what he did, right?

Start right by explaining how the truth is still the truth, even if comes from someone who doesn’t text.

 

About David Gillaspie
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