Generation Gap of Pandemic

Generational Gap

by Mason Rutledge, President

“Ok, Boomer” and groans about “those Millennials” is taking on new meaning.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, our country was parted along a pack of partitions, i.e. political, racial, socio-economic, etc.

In this season, separations have grown greater than just masks and gloves. There is a growing gap between generations. It may have started around virus spread risk reduction but has exposed a lingering unspoken frustration about finances and the future. “Ok, Boomer” is less about a lack of connectedness but rather reflects a frustration that Boomers are connected to most resources.

This generational theme took on a deeper dynamic this week in my discussions with business leaders and marketplace influencers. It’s not a new theme, but it has grown from a one-way concern to a multi-faceted divide. I heard one person say, “The generational separation is the most under-discussed divide in our society today…and it’s a huge issue.”

Each week during the pandemic, I have been writing a summary of themes heard in discussions with business leaders and marketplace influencers. This generational gap is the latest of themes.

Over the last few weeks, I have certainly heard from one side of this divide. Grandparents have shared their frustration with their lack of access to their grandchildren. Kids were keeping grand kids away because they feared spreading the virus to their vulnerable parents. These “vulnerable” grandparents were available and asking to see their grand kids. The Grandparents thought, “Wait, I’m the one in danger and I’ll take the risk…what’s the problem?” I have heard this several times.

They are right, this isn’t just about grand kids. Most Millennials are strictly following government stay-at-home orders. They are wearing masks. They are keeping social distancing guidelines. They are limiting their networks. They are working from home. And there is a general frustration with older people that are not doing the same.

The actual divide is much deeper, and it has been brewing longer than this virus and this week rose to the surface.

There is quiet frustration in the generations below Baby Boomers. It grows out of blame. Baby Boomers are blamed for racial and socio-economic inequities, environmental concerns, inflated housing prices, global problems, and most of the rest of the world’s issues. Baby Boomers are a giant generation that lived through a complex time of incredible opportunity.

I haven’t heard it specifically, but it seems that Millennials and Gen Z aren’t concerned about a financial pull back, as it will open economic opportunities, like home ownership, for them. Even if they personally experience a job or market hit, they know they have decades to bounce back.

Respect for their parents is limiting the sharing of honest, unspoken thoughts by “kids.” Fear of losing access to their “kids” is limiting the sharing of honest, unspoken thoughts from parents. We are going through life along slowly dividing parallel routes. This is a significant issue for our society and just as we are confronting COVID, we need to confront this conflict.

The government may have mandated separation among people, but that separation is now growing among generations. Comments like “Ok, Boomer” and “those Millennials” was just the start. This virus is giving us a chance to reset these relationships for honest discussions, even if done through masks and at six feet apart in the yard.