Caregiving: Generational Issues Challenge Discussions

By Pamela D. Wilson CSA, MS, BS/BA, CG

Every generation uses the phrase “kids today” with a tone of disappointment. After all, the generation in which we were born is always the greatest. It’s those that come after us that we see as the problem.  In discussing subjects related to caregiving, it is helpful to learn about different aspects of each generation and how these affect values, experiences, lifestyles and attitudes.

Baby Boomers, age 44-62, were born after World War II by the Veterans, influenced by the Great Depression. Baby Boomers, born in the Age of Aquarius were part of the spiritual awakening.  They bore generation X, age 30-43, encouraged to find meaningful employment.  Gen X has children age 8-29, Generation Y, reliant on technology and use of  Twitter, Facebook, email, text messaging and blogging.¹  Why talk when one can text?

These generational differences affect workplace, societal and caregiving values.  With such significant differences how do balance interpersonal discussions about caregiving needs and plan for a future when we will need care?

Effective communication One generational challenge is varying life focus; family and loyalty versus money and self centeredness.  Finding common ground to discuss aging and what each one of us wants the aging process to look like spiritually, financially, emotionally and physically will help generational differences narrow and promote commonality.

Reality verses the Peter Pan SyndromeBetween the value systems of yesterday and today it is important to find a balance in lifestyle that can influence future life challenges positively.  “The Peter Pan Syndrome” is a concept in which we all remain young, free and untouched by the burdens and responsibilities of being an adult within society.  It is a whimsical notion relying on the joys of childhood and avoiding adult responsibility to plan ahead and consider what we might face tomorrow which include eventual changes in health and our ability to care for ourselves.

RationalizationAs we age and life events occur, many of us participate in rationalization.  By this we offer an explanation to justify an action or event which may be based on an excuse and not rational thought.  For example, you may not want to go to a senior center because it’s filled with “old people”.  While an adult may be old themselves, saying this allows avoidance of the reality that a person is similar in any way to the “old people” attending the senior center.  This defense mechanism allows us to make irrational choices and justify them to ourselves.  It is important to be honest with ourselves about our reasons for doing or not doing something, especially if we are avoiding a situation.

Health care todayAdvances in medicine in the past century have been significant transitioning from home remedies like grandma’s chicken soup to soothe a cold to modern vaccines.  These generational issues present conflict when discussing what to do with a life changing health event.  There is value in home remedies and traditions versus what might be seen as white coat medicine.  How can we combine both today that results in a holistic plan to benefit the human body?

Pensions, retirement plans and the current job market Fifty years ago companies offered pensions and retirement plans to loyal workers.  Today individuals hop from job to job with little sense of loyalty and a live for today attitude which means that money is not saved for the future.  How can we realistically talk about tomorrow with regard to planning for aging and the need for care when the focus is on today?  We need a balance of the past generation’s frugality combined with today’s knowledge of estate and retirement planning, health care and aging.

Culture of processed foods How many of us eat or make home cooked dinners?  How many families sit down to share a meal?  Fast food restaurants, take and bake food and processed foods are today’s trends; yet not a healthy trend. Unhealthy lifestyles, diets and lack of exercise lead to diagnosis of multiple health conditions in mid-life.  We know much more as a society today about healthy foods and diets than prior generations.  By making changes and choices now we can change the future of our health.

Continuity and lifestyle changesFamily structure, technology, economic challenges, war, values and health care change with each generation.  If we look back at the simplistic daily lives of our grandparents versus our lives today it’s easy to see that life, while offering advances, has become more complicated and stressful.  How do we balance rushed lifestyles with the simplicity of the past and what does this mean for us when we are the age of our grandparents?

No one is homeWorking parents and latch key children, we’re constantly busy and never at home.  What once was a refuge and the center of family has become a landing base from which to go here and there.  When will we realize that it’s simply too much?  Being constantly busy voids time for reflection and planning so that many of us arrive at advanced ages with no plans and in crises situations not knowing where to turn.

Specialized medicineHow many doctors does it really take to prescribe an appropriate health care plan? There are pros and cons of seeing different physicians, however for older individuals this can lead to confusion and medication issues when the individual lacks the ability to communicate and coordinate information effectively.  Managing healthcare is extremely challenging for many older adults who have little knowledge of the health care system and how to best achieve the results they wish.

Historically and culturally young The Unites States is young compared to countries in Europe that have existed for centuries.  We have experienced technological advances that many third world countries can’t even imagine.  We also have a culture in love with youth and with extending youth.  Men who fought World War II would never think of having eyebrows waxed or Botox treatments yet among the 20 and 30 something generations holding onto youth at all costs by having treatments have become common place.  Older individuals able to walk without support discriminate against others of similar age who use walkers or wheelchairs.  We’ve become a society avoiding the eventuality of aging at all costs.

Generational issues affect individuals and families today in all aspects of daily life.  This has been happening for years.  However with the aging of the Baby Boomers societal issues of dealing with aging populations and health care issues will no longer be avoidable.  We will no longer be able to ignore the fact that we will all age and die.  Now is the time for families to come together to discuss aging and health care with all generations; children, parents and grandparents.

  1. Health Care Leaders”. Journal of Business & Economics Research. Volume 6: 27-31.

© 2012, 2014 Pamela D. Wilson, All Rights Reserved.

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