Bijal looks back on International Youth Day and reflects on what this means to her.
I find that people can sometimes become confused between demographic age categories and generations. We often use the terms interchangeably. We all progress through the age bands, where key milestones happen. In your 20s these may be obtaining a mortgage or starting your first job. Milestones are achieved by people in all generations, but generational differences are what’s specific to that generation. Gen Y (also known as Millennials) have experienced different events that neither Gen X nor Gen Z went through at that age. I find this important to understand when we look at our intergenerational world.
I believe that we should stop focusing on generational differences. Instead, I think about what life was like for me when I progressed through certain life stages and what life may be like for those at that stage now. I remember what it was like to take my exams at school, but I wouldn’t be able to compare it to those who learned online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every year, the media comment on exam results and say how it’s easier to get A grades now compared to many years ago, but realistically the standards aren’t dropping, and young people are working harder than ever. We don’t have this same level of criticism when someone breaks a world record at the Olympics or Commonwealth Games. Nobody comments that a minute isn’t what it used to be. Let’s enjoy the progress in society rather than being worried about standards dropping.
There’s lots of important lessons learned by older generations that can really help young people and vice versa. A great way to achieve this is through volunteering. People are living longer, healthier lives so are now able to retire whilst they’re still youthful, giving younger people the privilege to be able to learn from them. These older people are in a unique position where they can mentor young people; teaching and supporting them. This is something I’m extremely passionate about! In my voluntary work at the Scouts, I see those who are 60 plus being really excited and enthusiastic when mentoring the younger generation. They’re still able to have a voice and share their fascinating backgrounds.
I believe for a business to be up-to-date with our world’s intergenerational culture, they need to consider employing people towards the end of their career, who can mentor the younger generation to shape the future of the organisation, as well as employing apprentices who can learn from the older generation. There needs to be a balance, where all generations listen to, respect and learn from one another.
When I’m working with someone new, whether that be volunteering or at work, I love it when I’m asked, “Why do we do it like that?”, as it shows a willingness to want to know more. As we explain the ‘why’ we may realise how we’re stuck in our current ways and see an opportunity for change.
We’re at a really exciting point in society, as we’ve become so much better at working and communicating with each other. I believe we need to fight against any negativity about the separation of age, demographics and generations. Instead, we should value and support each other. We live in an amazing world where we have an older, healthier population who are able to add value to workplaces and organisations, while we have younger people who’ve learned from unique life stages.
Do you believe an intergenerational society is important?