I recently attended a luncheon, a gathering of about 50 women. The audience included women from their 20’s to their 80’s. The speaker was a writer, talking about her novel about World War II and its impact on American families. The topic obviously hit home most with women (Traditionals) who had memories of Pearl Harbor, rationing and personal loss. It affected those of us (Baby Boomers) who had heard such stories from our parents somewhat differently. For the younger women (Gen X and Millennials), it probably was a bit of remote history.
I saw a graphic display in how generations are created and influenced by our experiences in our formative years – and shaped by ongoing change. World War II influenced the world view and values of Traditionals. Baby Boomers were more influenced by Vietnam, the Civil Rights and feminist movements and the availability of the birth control pill. The changing configuration of families (as a result of women entering the workplace and divorce rates) helped shape members of Generation X. And Millennials were shaped by technology (instant communication and answers) and more affirming styles of parenting.
How much change has occurred since these Traditional women experienced World War II as young people! I thought particularly about changes in the role of women in the workplace, the meaning of “retirement,” and the impact of technology. Nearly all of the women over 65, including women in their 70’s and 80’s, were active, involved, working and contributing. The views of women’s roles that were prevalent in their youth (and mine) are long gone. I was impressed by the continuing work of these women and struck by how “retirement” has been redefined.
Just think of the technological changes these more senior women have seen! My mother (she would be a decade older than the oldest woman in that room) was young in a time of “ice boxes,” telephone operators who knew your name, and Model T Fords. She, like many of the women at this luncheon, saw our landing on the moon and the development of the internet and cellular technology. At the luncheon, one woman was the creator and publisher of a magazine. It has gone the way of many publications – to online versions. She is now involved as an online publicist and social media adviser. Her career has kept up with big technological changes!
What will the world be like when the 20-somethings in that room are 80-something?