Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Community Engagement Setting the Stage for Theory S: II. The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups

Setting the Stage for Theory S: II. The Social and Cultural Characteristics of Generational Age Groups

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Boomers are also the shocked generation. This may account for many of those who are now politically disengaged. Throughout the past decade they have seen their ingrained sense of entitlement jolted by unmet expectations. For many of them high-paying jobs, large houses, and multiple cars evaporated with the careers and lifestyles that were severely impacted by massive layoffs in the late 80s and early 90s. And now they are experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression (Endnote 14). Boomers were once in their peak earning years, but they have been better at spending money than at saving it. They now face retirement and worry about their future Social Security benefits and Medicare entitlements (Endnote 15).

Even though stressed about financial concerns, Boomers anticipate a busy retirement lifestyle, and many plan to make time for volunteer activities and paid encore careers (second careers having social purpose). They seek volunteer opportunities if these fit their specific interests, skills, resources, and abilities. They volunteer if they can make a meaningful contribution in a limited amount of time. They are not satisfied with fulfilling a role based solely on the needs of an organization. In short, Boomers anticipate doing what they want to do, not what they have to do (Endnote 16).

Generation X

Now between ages 32 and 47, the Xers are the smallest age cohort in the US population (45 million) (Endnote 17). These children of Baby Boomers were born after the introduction of birth control and when women began sharing the breadwinner role with men. Xers grew-up during a period of financial, familial, and societal insecurity and tumultuous change. Significant life shapers included the end of the Vietnam War; the Iranian hostage crisis; the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush; the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals; the Clinton-Lewinsky debacle; Three Mile Island; Bhopal; AIDS; the fall of the Berlin wall and end of the cold war; Desert Storm; the 1987 stock market crash; a stagnant job market, corporate down-sizing, and limited wage mobility; and the inception of the home computer, video games, the Internet, MTV, and the rise of Dot-com businesses. Also critical in shaping Xers was their parents having suffered devastating job losses, which made them wary and pessimistic about their own future. They are the first generation predicted to earn less than their parents (Endnote 18).

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