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Boomers Versus Millennials

I’m a Boomer with Millennial Friends

I was telling a friend last week about going to a baseball game. As I was describing the people involved, my friend laughed. “You have friends in their 30s? What do Boomers and Millennials have in common?

At first, it made me feel ancient, like no one under the age of 45 would have the least bit of interest in what I might have to offer. Then I realized that her comment said much more about the reality of her world, than it offered commentary on my own.

But it got me thinking. I’ve heard more than one midlifer say similar things. I keep reading criticisms of younger generations, especially Millennials, and is it fair? James Wolcott writes in Vanity Fair:

The first generation of digital natives and Facebook fiends, Millies possess the biological attributes of other Earth dwellers but appear to represent an evolutionary hop into a future that seems stuck in traffic.

Ready to take on a world that isn’t making room for them, they’re thwarted, slowly, awkwardly, fitfully integrating into adult society and doing a remarkable job of getting on everybody’s nerves.

They walk among us, though most of them don’t appear to mind where they’re going, their eyes and forefinger scrolling down ghostly screens as they maintain constant textual linkage with fellow mutants and finesse their flat affect.

They work among us, although if the testimonies of executives, middle management, and Human Resources can be credited, Millies require a constant drizzle of compliments and acknowledgments—strokings and pokings—to remain motivated or at least stop fidgeting.

Whatever Millies do or consume, they want to feel special, because so many of them have been treated as special all of their lives.

Understanding Millennials

There are studies disputing the above criticisms about the work ethic of Millennials (i.e. flexible work hours doesn’t equate to laziness) and their seeming need for constant approval and support.

Jeremy Boudinet, a Millenial himself, stresses that it’s not feedback that his generation needs.

“Isn’t this indicative of a generation that is not so much narcissistic as we are uncertain? Everyone’s calling for humility, but what I see is a need for direction.

On a professional level, there is compelling evidence that Boomer and Gen-X mentorship is the cure for bridging the generation gap and “fixing” Millennials, for the betterment of all parties involved.

No one seems to remember that it was their parents’ generation who gave everyone a trophy for showing up. Those 90s kids didn’t lead a protest and demand fake plastic statues for their Saturday morning appearance at soccer. They were excited about the cake and the water slide, not the extravagant gift bag they were handed at their buddy’s birthday party.

Millennials selfie

We Made Them

Either older Boomers or younger Gen-Xers parented Millennials. And the kids absorbed the strength of what we offered, and suffered from our mistakes. Like all generations. And the world they’re entering is extremely different than the ones of their parents. Like all generations.

My folks couldn’t believe I could take three courses in college “pass/fail” or that my freshman year colloquia focused on whether or not God existed. “That school is too liberal,” and continuously asked me if I wanted to transfer to the University of Arkansas.

They were flabbergasted I spent a lot of money on my very first concert to gyrate to the sounds of Three Dog Night. “Not a symphony? Not Barbra Streisand?

My grandmother, who was seated in the third row at my senior voice recital, stage-whispered to my mother, “She doesn’t have on a bra,” her words ringing out right after the initial applause, when you could’ve heard a pin drop.

I was obviously going to hell in a hand basket.

Some seem to believe all the Millennials are about to join me.

Boomers and Millennials, A Love Story

Maybe it’s an odd coupling, Boomers and Millennials. I bet we have something to learn from each other.

I personally love hanging out with people younger than me. They challenge my thinking and my perspective. It helps that my son is a Millennial and I’m eager to hear how he and his friends see the world.

I personally don’t want to boxed in by my own generational title, “Oh, she’s a Boomer.” How boring. Why would I do that to someone else?

As far as my contribution to the relationship? Wisdom is one thing. Rigid thinking is something else.

Want more on Boomers and Millennials? Read how to mentor Millennials in the workplace, and why Boomers should use social media.

Want more from Dr. Margaret? Click here for “Marriage Is Not For Chickens,” the new gift book by Dr. Margaret! It’s perfect for engagements, anniversaries, weddings, or for the person you love! (Give it to a Millennial– maybe they’ll learn a little something…)

You can hear more about midlife and many other topics by listening to Dr. Margaret’s new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford.

Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist, who has practiced for over twenty years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Since 2012, her writing has been found on her own website, as she writes about mental health, with a special focus on Perfectly Hidden Depression, midlife and relationship issues. She's the current mental health columnist for Midlife Boulevard, writes an advice column on Vibrant Nation, is a weekly columnist for The Good Men Project, and hosts a regular FB Live video session on depression for The Mighty. Her work and expertise can also be found on The Huffington Post, Sixty and Me, Better After 50, Reader's Digest, Prevention, Psychology Today, and The Cheat Sheet. Dr. Margaret recently has launched a new podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford, where you can listen to her direct and down-to-earth advice.

Antionette Blake

Friday 30th of June 2017

I am a Boomer who Blogs with a Millennial Mind and I enjoy talking to, networking and educating them, however, I wouldn't consider them friends that I would hang out with.


Friday 30th of June 2017

Age is not everything, it's all about the people, how they see the world and if they share their beliefs. Age doesn't matter :) Great article!


Monday 26th of June 2017

I'm right on the edge between Gen-X and Millennial. My parents are boomers. in my mid 30's now, I've become... worse than jaded. I can see both sides of the coin. I understand where gen x is coming from. i also understand where millennials are coming from. and with a fairly unique childhood, i can very closely relate with boomers. It's a mixed up mess.

From my perspective, the older generations have let a WHOLE LOT of crap fall on millennials and the generation that will follow them. Absolutely true. The things that were important when a boomer was 20 are mostly useless to today's 20 year olds, too. College for instance. 50% of college graduates today will see no benefit whatsoever.

And that's the thing, millennials are RIGHT about the shift, things ARE different, boomers and X'ers DID mess it up.

But that doesn't change the fact that most millennials i know are NUTS. Stark raving NUTS. It's like they're just meandering around aimlessly, lost and confused and mainly just trying to blend in by not blending in and change the world in ways it doesn't need to change by chanting the same stuff that didn't change it before.

I'm SO hopeless about the way this world is turning out. Heartbroken. Watching everyone march into oblivion and taking what little sanity and common sense we used to have as human beings with them into the abyss...

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Tuesday 27th of June 2017

I hate for you that you're full of dread Sandy. That can leave you so close to depression. You make good points -- I think my reaction is that we all have our perspectives - and that there will be exceptions to any rule. I know lots of millennials who've got things going there way, but in a very different manner than any boomer did it. I'll hope for tolerance and understanding.


Sunday 25th of June 2017

My first concert was also Three Dog Night!! I have a lot of friends who are Millennials. As someone who was in a 30-year relationship with a guy who was pre-Boomer (born 1940, i.e., 20 years older than me) I developed an appreciation for surrounding myself with friends of all ages. Great post!! Thank you!

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Tuesday 27th of June 2017

I loved them!!! Great concert... or so I thought at the time! Thanks Kathleen!

Cathy Ross

Friday 23rd of June 2017

Great article!! I also have two millennial sons. Although they are into all the trappings of technology, they are also loving, caring people who work full time. I am quite proud of them both and I also know it's partly due to their upbringing that they are that way.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Tuesday 27th of June 2017

Glad you're giving yourself a bit of credit Cathy! Thanks!

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