Getting old sucks, for every generational cohort, not just for the elderly. Every day I search the news and read many stories about Baby Boomers and Millennials. It is very common for the writers of these stories to make glaring errors when it comes to defining these generational cohorts.
OK Boomer is a viral internet slang phrase used, often in a humorous or ironic manner, to call out or dismiss out-of-touch or close-minded opinions associated with the Baby Boomer generation and older people more generally.
Terms like “Gen X” and “Gen Y,” Baby Boomer, and Millennial get thrown around all of the time, as if we know exactly what they mean. Each cohort is deeply influenced by their unique environment. Within these confines, it is the events that impact our lives that often defines us. The Greatest Generation, or the Silent Generation were largely defined by WWII. It was a catastrophic influencing event in their lives. But try asking someone in their early 30s what category they fall into. Few have a ready answer. Why, well there are many milestone events, none are so impactful as a world war. So, it is harder to put a finger on the pulse of this cohort.
Labeling individual people in any definitive way is never a good idea. On an individual basis, it is almost always an improper thing to do and rarely fits the person. However, at a high-level point of view when examining trends and patterns for masses of the population, there clearly are identifiable groups or generational cohorts.
So, it irks me when I see writers misuse the terms and incorrectly apply these terms to the wrong generation.
Here are the main generational cohorts seen as the bulks of the population. As of 2019, the breakdown by age looks like this:
- Baby Boomers: Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1963. They’re current between 55-75 years old
- Gen X: Gen X was born between 1964 – 1978 and are currently between 40-54 years old
- Gen Y: Gen Y, or Millennials, were born between 1979 and 1995. They are currently between 24-40 years old.
- Gen Y.1 = 24-29 years old
- Gen Y.2 = 30-40 years old
- Gen Z: Gen Z is the newest generation to be named and were born between 1996 and 2015. They are currently between 4-23 years old
Are there other cohorts, yes, there are a few, but these four make up the main population today. A cohort is normally defined when the leading edge of the mass of population hits the age of 22 years old. This is the typical age when a student graduates from university and enters the workforce in a meaningful manner.
The Greatest Generation are over 75 years old now and are rapidly diminishing in size. This generation grew up, and frequently were defined by their experiences growing up, during The Great Depression and World War II. But, sadly their statistical time is fast ending as they die off.
Javelin Research noticed that not all Millennials are currently in the same stage of life. While all millennials were born around the turn of the century, some of them are still in early adulthood, wrestling with new careers and settling down, while the older millennials have a home and are building a family. You can imagine how having a child might change your interested and priorities, so for marketing purposes, it’s useful to split this generation into Gen Y.1 and Gen Y.2.
Not only are the two groups culturally different, but they are in vastly different phases of their financial life. The younger group are financial fledglings, just flexing their buying power. The latter group has a credit history, may have their first mortgage and are raising toddlers. The contrast in priorities and needs is vast.
The same logic can be applied to any generation that is in this stage of life or younger. As we get older, we tend to homogenize and face similar life issues. The younger we are, the more dramatic each stage of life is. Consider the difference between someone in elementary school and high school. While they might be the same generation, they have very different views and needs.
Marketing to young generations as a single cohort will not be nearly as effective as segmenting your strategy and messaging.
There are different ranges in different countries too. But those discrepancies are small and not overly meaningful.
In a recent exchange with a senior human resources staff member, I learned from her all about the major differences between the Gen Y and the Gen Z. I was told that the Gen Z are more like the Baby Boomers in dress code, passion, interests, personal drive, entrepreneurial spirit, and focus and intent. Of course, they are incredibly technologically literate and far more advanced compared to the Boomers, so that is a major difference, but there is still many significant contrasting points between them and the Millennials leading them. Watching the “Greta Thunberg” green earth movement sweep the world, the majority of the marchers are from this Gen-Z cohort, so there is a genuine passion and a committed spirit that is very inspiring and refreshing to see. So, I am enthusiastically positive for this Gen-Z cohort. They are awesome.
Remember that the exact years in which a cohort is born are often disputed, but this should give you a general range to help identify what generation you belong in. The ranges vary by just one year in most cases. So, the edges of the cohort are fuzzy, but not the main body of the groups.
The other fact to remember is that new technology is typically first adopted by the youngest generation and then is gradually adopted by the older generations. As an example, 95% of Americans have a smartphone, but Gen-Z (the youngest generation) is the highest user. So, criticizing the older generations as being out of date is not really a fair description. They are simply trailing the leading edge.
So, before you simply label someone in a derogatory manner, and insult them by labeling them as one group or another, please consider these cohorts. Insults are not warranted in the world of demographics. We are all different, and that is a good thing. “Okay Boomers?” lol
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. He is employed by Wirepas Oy from Tampere, Finland as the Director of Business Development. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.