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A Millennial's Hard Look at Grandparents' Generation

Taking too long at the checkout line or driving too slowly? Many seniors may not think so, but chances are millennials will let them know by sighing heavily or hitting the horn. That's according to a Canadian survey that found a "growing intolerance toward seniors" by millennials, with one-third believing that seniors should not get any special treatment.

Granddaughter to grandfather

So does that mean that "Millennials Are Scared of Seniors," as columnist J.M. Henderson wrote in Forbes? She points to the cultural and political differences between young adults and their grandparents as an example of the huge generation gap.  On a more "primal" level, she acknowledges that millennials like herself look at seniors and are reminded that "the aging process stops for no one, that the years keep piling up regardless of whether you feel ready to advance into your 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond."

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In a recent phone conversation, however, Henderson offered a more positive look at the parallels between millennials and seniors, starting with money. "Both generations came of age during an economic downturn," she notes, "and share attitudes toward saving money and being financially secure." Indeed a UBS survey reported millennials' "Depression-era mindset" when it comes to saving, particularly because of the recession's impact on both them and their parents.

Doing more with less is another common denominator, says Henderson. "The same resourcefulness that we see in our grandparents is also seen in the DIY and maker culture so popular with millennials." The Harvard Business Review dubbed millennial entrepreneurs as the "MacGyvers of Business," referring to the 1980s TV character who wielded only a Swiss Army knife and duct tape to solve any challenge.

And millennials can learn a lesson from seniors when it comes to starting a career, says Henderson. Consider actor James Garner, who died last month. He didn't become an actor until age 25, and then only by accident after a string of jobs from oil field roughneck to carpet installer.

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Henderson disagrees with the advice sometimes given to  "special snowflake" millennials not to settle for a less-than-perfect first job. "Hard work is good even if not relevant," says Henderson. "We see seniors who wove together disparate jobs and switched industries and moved up and out. We need to look at that as an example rather than a cautionary tale."

Mary W. Quigley's blog, Mothering21, tackles parenting of emerging adults and beyond.


Photo: Lisafx/iStock


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