We, the baby boomers promoted an idea that younger people are better, more full of energy, more technologically adept and more business-minded, something that has certainly been taken on board by our children’s generation. Shifts have been seen within families and generations. For example, our parents, teachers and carers generally assumed they ‘knew best’, whereas now we tend to relate to our children in a more consensual way, accepting that the younger person has valid ideas.
We are now labelled the ‘sandwich generation’ – the filling in the middle. Find us between these groups. This can lead to tensions both externally and internally. We carry many of the values instilled by our parents and those we handed onto our children, and these conflict at times.
Families were, when we were growing up, very hierarchical with grandparents at the head. Even within peer generations, there was a hierarchy with older siblings often left to look after younger ones and therefore expecting a similar respect. Just being a member of one of those groups gave you certain roles and expectations.
Things are certainly different. Many young people do not settle down into long-term relationships or raise a family until later in life. They have more years without other responsibilities with many of them are living at home well into their twenties.
Many of our generation have taken on the caring role of elderly loved ones, feeling they have no choice and being both angry and sad about it rather than facing what this truly means in terms of their own lives. There is no right or wrong way in any of this. Each individual has to make his or her own decision. Whatever that may be, the important thing is that we think about it in advance.
Alongside this, people of our generation also want to do it differently. Many of us are unprepared to fall into the stereotype of an ‘older person’ and do not plan to live life in a conventional way. This will include finding ways to continue to work post retirement age as well as having time to travel and pursue other interests. So our external world is changing but are we truly changing within ourselves?
The challenges for us are two fold, one is to learn to be adult with our children (when they’re adults) even when we’re tempted to tell them how they should behave or muscle in when it should be their partner looking after them, not their mother. The other is to learn how to be adult with our own parents and not succumb to their demands just because we are their children. Choosing to look after either group is fine, it is when we find ourselves doing things out of duty that we get ourselves into trouble.
Experience Matters is an organisation set up to empower the 50+ and to help us to manage this next stage of life. We offer coaching, workshops, advice and information. Take a look at our website www.experiencematters.org.uk.
Contact me at www.experiencematters.org.uk with your questions.
Best wishes, Keren
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