Sometime in the early 1970s while caddying for my older brother and father we were joined by two 60-something businessmen. My brother was a college-educated card-carrying boomer early in his career. His existence got the businessmen to complain nonstop about boomers. They were entitled. Boomers didn’t listen. They refused to work hard. The businessmen said they avoided hiring boomers like my brother.
I bring up this memory because generational stereotypes about boomers are nasty, pervasive and deeply wrong. So are the similarly ignorant stereotypes about millennials. Sad to say, a cottage industry feeds off the concept of intergenerational warfare. The “kids vs. canes” tactic is popular when politicians and think tanks propose cuts to Social Security.
Yet the evidence is compelling that shared values dominate. For example, the IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed millennials, Gen Xers and boomers. The results show the three generations held common work goals, such as making a positive impact on the organization, helping to solve social and environmental problems, working in teams and dealing with a diverse group of people. Different generations benefit from being around one another and supporting each other.
The same insight holds for neighborhoods and communities. Living in a multigenerational neighborhood in your retirement years can be good for your health and quality of life with age. That’s one takeaway from a recent research report by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and the AARP Public Policy Institute. A key signpost of good livability for older adults is that the neighborhood is multiple generations. “Age diverse communities are important because they foster opportunities for intergenerational interaction and learning,” notes the report.
So, when planning for retirement and where to live check out the generational diversity of your neighborhood or the neighborhood you might move to. Neighborhoods with multiple generations offer both a safety net and a support network. Loneliness and social isolation are less likely.
“When people of different ages and abilities live alongside each other, they can look out for each other and pick up slack,” writes Daniel Herriges, senior editor for Strong Towns, an organization for strengthening communities. A vibrant multigenerational neighborhood helps make practical the aging-in-home choice.
Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, “Marketplace,” and Minnesota Public Radio.