I am planning a long overdue holiday with one of my daughters. Post GCSE stress we’re heading straight to Ibiza, not only for some long overdue time together, but because quite frankly it’s FUN! I can party and dance till dawn alongside all generations and no one will bat an eyelid. As adolescence now stretches into the 30s, ‘middle-essence’ – that time when your children are grown up but you’re still young, fit and full of energy and fun – stretches from mid-40s up to 60s and even 70s. And we’re the ones who attended the great musical events the first time round anyway – I don’t think you ever grow out of loving that vibe!
My girls are now all at an age where we can have lively debate. To be able to relax with them on holiday and listen without interruption to their ways in the world is refreshing and compelling. Their views are informed and intelligent, and recently I’ve been struck by just how similar our standpoints and attitudes seem to have become, despite the fact that we are separated by three decades.
We define generations through a timeline because when we are born dictates our values, attitudes and behaviours. There’s little to compare my parent’s generation against my own. Born post WWI and living as children through WWII, they were guided by their parents to be seen and not heard. Rationing meant thrift, and discipline lay at the core of their thinking. They worked hard, upheld traditional values and, for many women, marriage and a family took precedence because university and a professional career were considered a less attainable option.
Skip a few generations ahead to the Millennials, Generation Z and Alpha and the world could not be more different, not only to my parent’s generation, but also my own. Led by the evolution of technology – and especially the last two generations, who will have no memory of life before smartphones, laptops and the development of social media – they are far more aware and informed than we ever were at their age. It does seem to follow that attitudes, values and a perception of the world around us are defined through a stereotypical generational timeline.
Gradually though, it seems that the lines between their generations and ours are becoming increasingly blurred, and that societal expectations placed on the age of a generation don’t exist in quite the same way anymore. I’m sure that this is true for men and women alike; but talking purely female here, I don’t think there are many 40 or 50 plus women out there now who feel that their age defines who they are, certainly not in the way that it has with previous generations. If anything, there is almost a sense that we are ‘growing younger’.
On a surface level, we follow similar fashion trends. As fashion evolves to become more generic and less formal, our tastes have merged into a universal outfit of jeans and trainers, dressed up or down with a silk shirt or an oversized jumper. I cannot imagine I would ever have swapped clothes with my Mum, and nor she with me, but I certainly do with my daughters.
On a more significant level, for those who work and as the pension age shifts, we have more working years ahead of us surrounded by these generations who, unlike us, began their careers at the forefront of technology, yet increasingly we sit confidently and capably alongside them. Add to this the development of social media, which most of us use, and it means that we are all standing on the same platform, taking on board the currency of opinion and attitude – if we choose to – and making the generational divide even more indistinct.
I think that today’s generation are more unfettered by labels and division than we ever were at their age, but there is a common ground in that they stand up and speak out against injustice and the discriminations they see going on around them just as we did. I’d like to think that we have passed on the importance of taking a stand for what we believe in, but it may be that actually we are also becoming more aware and outspoken today by their example.
There’s a great Gloria Steinem quote: “We need to remember across the generations there is as much to learn as there is to teach.” Whichever way you look at it, the divisional lines between generations are definitely becoming more blurred. We may have an ageless society yet.