Gen Z and Baby Boomer members differ in aspects such as health and social media as shown by original art by Sarabeth Wester. (Sarabeth Wester)
Gen Z and Baby Boomer members differ in aspects such as health and social media as shown by original art by Sarabeth Wester.

Sarabeth Wester

Changing Priorities

The generational differences between Baby Boomers and Gen Z’ers is no reason for there to be such a divide between the two generations’ respect for each other.

March 15, 2022

From Barbies to iPhones, Hot Wheels to real cars, and tag on the playground to winning prom queen, our priorities change as we go through life. As we get older, we value different things, and this shift in what’s important also applies in the long term when looking at generational values.

When it comes to rifts in generational values, none are more clear than the contrast (and conflict) between Gen Z’ers and Baby Boomers. These generations, born half a century apart, aren’t quite getting along.

When it comes to interacting, we negatively lump each other into generalized groups: either spoiled, punk kids (Gen Z) or technologically deficient, uncultured elders (boomers).

There was even the viral trend “OK, Boomer,” a term used by Gen Z’ers as means to insult people of that age range.

There are a plethora of differences between Gen Z and Boomers, but that doesn’t mean there should be such conflict between the two groups. We may differ drastically in what we prioritize when it comes to health, college, careers, and social aspects, but by understanding what other generations value, we can create a more appreciative society in which people can feel understood and respected.

 

Career

When it comes to the workplace, it’s a whole new world for Gen Z than it was for Baby Boomers when they were starting off their careers. The new generation is known for being technologically advanced and according to data, they’re expected to bounce around from one workplace to the next far more than previous generations.

In an article by the ECMC Group, who works to help students succeed by providing educational opportunities, it’s predicted that Gen Z’ers “are expected to work 18 jobs, spanning six careers, and live in 15 residences.”

On the other hand, Baby Boomers are known for being dedicated, hard-working employees who stayed at a job for the long run. According to a visual made by USF, Baby Boomers “work to live,” a quality that defines their work-life balance.

Gen Z couldn’t be more different. An inverse Work-life balance is one of the most valued aspects for Gen Z’ers when choosing a career path, and that probably contributes to predicted job-changing tendencies. Gen Z seems to care more about leading a healthy life and traveling the world while Baby Boomers valued starting a family and getting a good, steady job.

 

Health

Baby Boomers have been lucky enough to escape the grasps that social media’s diet culture has put on all the younger generations, so they’re not likely to follow the same restrictive eating habits that Millenials and Gen Z do. Labels and caloric information don’t hold nearly as much value as quality, healthy meals do for this generation.

Gen Z, unfortunately, seems to be quite the opposite. This is a generation obsessed with nutrition labels, the latest diet fads, veganism, restrictive eating, etc. But, labels and caloric information doesn’t exactly equal health. All this stress over what we’re eating, yet Gen Z turns out to be the least health-conscious generation, statistically. On a daily basis, five servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for the average person, and the FSA Food and You survey showed that those in the ages of 16-24 are least likely to consume even one serving of fruits and vegetables per day.

 

College

Baby boomers attended college during the era of President Johnson’s Higher Education Act, which meant more federal aid for students and therefore increased attendance at universities. While the generations to follow increased in their percentages of college attendants, this was a big step towards attaining a higher education for the baby boomers and encouraged more of them to go to a university.

Gen Z’ers are on track to become the most educated generation thus far in terms of the number of college attendants. However, they differ in their mindsets towards college. Baby boomers went to college with more of the intention to “learn to work” but the current generation enrolled in university prioritizes balance and support both in and out of their learning environment. Gen Z’ers still value higher education and the benefits that come along with that degree, but aspects such as access to mental health services and social environment play a larger role in the process of choosing a college now.

 

Social Media

Gen Z is the first generation of digital natives. We eat, breathe, and sleep through our technology which has made us both technologically advanced and quick-minded, but also much vainer as we’re constantly exposed to the most perfect photos everyone can take of themselves on social media. We prioritize our appearances and aesthetics of our social media, which is something that older generations can’t relate to.

Baby Boomers, however, have the luxury of being untouched by the peer pressure of social media. The most common form of social media you can expect to find this generation on is Facebook, which is a whole different world compared to what you can find with Instagram models, photoshopped bodies, and blemish-free skin that the younger Gen Z’ers are exposed to.

 

Religion

Gen Z is considered to be the least religious generation of all time with about 42% of the members unaffiliated with religion in 2018, according to Deseret News. While there may be significantly lower numbers, studies have also shown that the devout members of this generation are actually more dedicated to their faith than those in older groups.

On the other hand, data from the Pew Research Center shows that 92% of members in a sample size of Baby Boomers believe in God to some extent, with just under 60% saying that their religion is a very important aspect of their life.

There are 51 years in between the beginning of the Baby Boomer era and the beginning of Gen Z’s. The differing opinions and values have caused a divide between the two generations, but really, the conflict can be avoided by gaining a better understanding and consequently more respect for each other.  We can do this by accepting that contrasting values are only natural for each new generation because of changes in religion, technology, career and college choices.

The generational differences between Gen Z and their grandparents in the Baby Boomer generation show the evolution of the priorities over the past half of a century or so. If this much change can come in aspects such as health, religion, and college, what will the priorities of those 50 years in the future look like?

 
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