Six generations of people now live in the United States. They range in age from those who are centenarians to those still in their formative years. The labels given them and the chronology of their generations are:
GI Generation—born 1901-1926, now age 90+ years of age
Silent Generation—born 1927-1945, now 70-88 years old
Baby Boom Generation—born 1946-1964, now 51-69 years old
Generation X—born 1965-1980, now 35-50 years old
Generation Y (Millennials)—born 1981-2000, now 15—34 years old
Generation Z—born after 2001 and now in their formative years.
While lengthy descriptions abound to label and define each generation here are six observations about these six generations. For further discussion of generational characteristics see this interesting article.
Generational labels are cultural, not necessarily chronological.
Just because an individual is of a certain age doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she holds the same worldview, preferences and habits as everyone else in that generation. People come in all shapes and sizes. Habits and lifestyles are learned and chosen not imposed and required.
Each generation enjoys unique experiences and thus has its own language and style of communication.
Typically those unique experiences are little known or recognized at the time and are understood by the participants in hindsight. My great-grandmother was born in the 19th century. Her generation experienced the innovations of electricity and DDT. Electricity provided lights and power. The insecticide DDT provided respite from the plague of insects so prevalent during the growing season.
Cross generational networks are important to aid mutual understanding of and appreciation for the similarities and differences between the generations.
The most natural mechanism for cross generational networks is the family of origin since it has always been the case that one generation gives birth to, nurtures and then releases the next generation. Cross generational networks often form in the workplace, in the neighborhood and in faith communities.
Intergenerational networks are vital to form identity, share values and develop the new alliances that characterize adulthood.
Without peers we can never realize our own full potential for no one is an island.
Authenticity and mutual respect are essential within and across each generation.
With six active generations present at the same time, each influenced by unique circumstances, life-events and preferences, niche marketing is essential.
This principle has been expressed by a businessman who became a public relations spokesman. He advocates that one must become all things to all people to convince a few of the truth being shared. This businessman was originally a tent manufacturer who later became a primary spokesman for Christianity. He also reminds us that unless we speak their language they will never hear our message. Logically he also concludes that unless someone tells them they will never know what we know.
To further explore these notions see the New Testament writings of Paul as found in “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” I Corinthians 9:22 and “Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying?” I Corinthians 14:9 and “How can they hear unless someone tells them?” Romans 10:14