What we can learn from the different generations

Posted On: Monday, 12 June 2023

Defining generations by birth year:
The Silent Generation: 1928-1945
Baby Boomers: 1946-1964
Generation X: 1965-1980
Millennials: 1981-1996
Gen Z: 1997-2010
Generation Alpha: 2010-2025

Membership in the American Legion Auxiliary can be broken down in several different ways: some people joined the organization to support its mission of serving veterans, military, and their families; honoring a servicemember or veteran inspired some to sign up for membership; and others simply like the social aspects of belonging to a unit. 
But there’s one thing our members have in common — all of us are from different generations.  
The ALA has an advantage, age-wise, in the way our membership eligibility is structured: You can become a member directly from the womb or complete an application as an octogenarian.
Let’s use this built-in ALA member benefit to teach others about the characteristics of each generation, and to appreciate that we’re all different. 
Identities of each generation, according to Indeed and Parents
The Silent Generation is the oldest group, offering mentorship to younger generations. These people value loyalty and make an effort to help others. Their strong work ethic means they might be more serious in nature, preferring more formal environments. 
Previously the largest generation, Baby Boomers are hardworking individuals who are more likely to value an established hierarchy of responsibilty and authority. Many Boomers want to continue working, even though they have the opportunity to retire. People in this generation believe authority comes from experience. Because of this, some Boomers may be more likely to trust an older person vs. younger person’s point of view.
Generation X, or Gen Xers as they’re commonly known, are independent and value more relaxed, flexible environments. This group is still actively raising children and therefore strives for a healthy work-life balance. Respsonsible for the rise of modern technology, Gen X is very comfortable with computers, smart devices, and learning new tech. 
While the previous generation may have jumpstarted the tech boom, Millennials are the first to have grown up in the age of being tech savvy. Millennials seek meaningful projects. Passionate about relaxed environments, Millennials aren’t afraid to challenge authority and status quo. They’re now the largest living adult generation.  
Gen Z tends to have a more global mindset. This group grew up on things that relied on technology, making Gen Z more adaptive to change. They want to work in and belong to places that value diversity and social responsiblilty. 
The youngest, Generation Alpha, has always known social media … and screens for that matter. Their technology skills are extremely sharp. Their formative years were shaped by the pandemic, and they hold strong values for family time. This group — the most diverse of any generation — cares about climate change and is passionate about inclusivity. 
So, what can we do as American Legion Auxiliary members in our organization of multiple generations? While it’s important not to generalize or stereotype people under the characteristics of their generation, it is good to take the time and study why people may make the decisions they do, or why they say the things they do. 
A Boomer, for example, shouldn’t discount or dismiss a younger person’s ideas in a unit meeting just because the member hasn’t been part of the ALA very long. A Millennial shouldn’t immediately use the “OK, Boomer” phrase seen on social media just because the Boomer’s beliefs tend to be more trusting of authority. And Gen Xers, being the middle child of the larger generations, should act as a bridge to build stronger relationships between the generations to support the ALA’s mission outreach activities.
The key takeaways in all of this generation talk — when we take the time to learn more about the people around us, we have a better understanding of who they are, their background, their interests, and goals. What are some ways we can apply that knowledge in our American Legion Auxiliary units, membership, and mission service? Do you have ideas? Tell us at ALAMagazine@ALAforVeterans.org

ALA Mission

In the spirit of Service, Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and to honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and Country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace and security.