Era by Era – We chat to a baby boomer, a millennial and a gen X

By Jamie-Lee Bracken

It comes as no surprise to hear that millennials are often labelled harshly- whether it is lazy, bratty or entitled- just to name a few. It’s also no surprise that these insults often come from the ‘critical’ baby boomer generation.

Baby boomers lament that the world they grew up in was much harder and far less forgiving, something they claim millennials have not experienced and are unaware of.

But with housing affordability at a crisis point, and the environment taking a hammering, many millennials feel as though they have been dealt with an equally as hard hand.

Then we have the folk from ‘gen x’, the group of people commonly credited with being the generation who held the minds of those who created technonlogy as we know it today – think Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. While the young millenials look up to them, baby boomers are quick to critique their lack of life experience.

But is there really that much difference between the life of a 20-year-old today, and a young adult 50 years ago?


Sometimes referred to as generation Y, millennials are all those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

Penelope Ainsworth is a 20-year-old Victoria University student. She starts her morning like most millennials with a scroll through her phone. After checking all her notifications, she gets up, gets dressed and has a coffee.

On her days off, you could find her watching Game of Thrones or Grey’s Anatomy. You could even catch her eating at Ayutthaya Thai in the Wellington suburb of Petone or cooking in her kitchen.

Millennials often cop a lot of slack from those in other generations and are labelled as ‘lazy’. This is something Ainsworth doesn’t agree with.

“They [baby boomers] don’t seem to understand how the world has changed and that we as millennials are facing a very different world to them,” she says.

She instead would describe her generation as educated, open minded and accepting. While she acknowledges youth of today have a lot to learn, she says she looks to gen X for advice, as she feels she could learn a lot from them.

“They’re the role models in my life. The ones I look up to for advice and help, but also the ones teaching me. There is a lot to learn from them,” says Ainsworth.

She says like most young adults, by the age of 18 her primary concern was figuring out where she wanted to go with her life and what she wanted to study.

She was expected to attend university, but this was something she wanted for herself.

While money has not been a huge concern for her she says she is still concerned about costs of studying on top of a student loan.

She understands in a broad sense that there are expectations on her to own a house “a lot sooner than what I will” she says. Also, the choice is completely up to her about when she marries and what she does as a career.

“I’m definitely expected to have a job and a career of my own. The direction I choose is completely up to me and no body expects any specifics from me,” says Ainsworth.

Ainsworth is thankful that being her age now means she can do more of what she wants without restriction, due to increasing gender equality. Something she thinks must have been difficult for people growing up in older generations.

“It can only get better and I love that I can choose to do whatever I want and not think twice about suitably because of my gender,” says Ainsworth.

Right now she is focused on completing her study and ensuring she can afford to live in Wellington. In the future, her greatest concern is money and if and when she can buy a house, whilst saving and still balancing a career and family.

Ainsworth believes that millennials are facing completely different issues to those of gen x and baby boomers. She understands that social media has been a significant catalyst for change by altering the way we interact and solve problems.

“There are completely different issues we [millennials] are faced with but some things remain the same of course. But all generations can learn a lot from each other,” she says.


Generation X is those born from the mid 1960s to the early 1980s.

Sarah Grant-Wang is part of the gen x crowd, a generation of people accredited with possessing the best charcateristics of both the millenials and baby boomers.

Like most of those in gen x, Grant-Wang is busy with her young family. She starts off her mornings by picking up her baby, daughter Fin Joy, and giving her a cuddle before heading off to work.

Grant-Wang says she grew up on a farm and feels very fortunate to not have had any big struggles in her youth.

“I had no struggles and am very fortunate to not have had any, I am very privileged to have lived the life I have in my family,” she says.

At the age of 18, and like most in her generation, she was expected to settle down buy a house, have a job and a family.

Her family didn’t want her to go to university and instead suggested she get a job and stay at home as a married woman with kids because that’s what her parents did.

However, Grant-Wang says her top priority was saving enough money to be able to travel.

“The world needed exploring and I needed to do it,” says Grant-Wang.

Grant-Wang certainly achieved her goals- she went on to complete four degrees and travelled the world, visiting many exciting places and even meeting her now husband in China.

“I’ve learnt a lot over the years, I can say that I’ve followed my dreams and I’ve conquered the five dreams I had in occupations so I’m happy.

“Now I have some new dreams,” she says.

Like her fellow gen x-ers, her biggest concern nowadays is her family.  She lives in New Zealand while her parents remain in England.

Her biggest concern for the future is the environment. Grant-Wang hopes that we can preserve our environment before it’s too late.

“I’m worried that all the oceans will become just desert, there will be no fish in the oceans,” she says.

Grant-Wang works with younger people. She says its always interesting to see the emphasis on social media as a way for young people to engage and communicate with each other.

This technological advancement is one of the biggest of her time she says.

She didn’t have a computer until she was 25 and got her first phone at 24. If she needed to call someone she would use the phone at home.

Grant-Wang says that millennials are ‘selfie-obsessed’ and spend a lot of time on social media like Instagram, Twitter and other “communicationy thingys”.

She herself tried to stay off mobile phones for as long as she could and only got one as part of her job. Nowadays she does see that it has more benefits than she thought.

“It’s a way to get connected with friends overseas and show pictures of what you’re doing,” she says.


Baby boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964.

Tone Te Ahuru considers himself very similar to most other baby boomers in his generation.

“When you get older, you don’t give a stuff about a lot of things, it’s like a been there done that sort of thing,” he says.

These days he’s more aware of his health and well being. He starts his mornings with a prayer, opens his curtains and windows and then gets on with his day.

In his downtime you could find him watching Sunday Theatre on television, or keeping fit at the gym.

He loves Malaysian cafes which are a homage to his Malaysian ancestry.

Baby boomers are known for being hard on millennials. Te Ahuru says social media is what sets millennials apart from those of different generations.

“Generations these days rely a lot on it [social media], and grow up influenced by it. They rely so much on it,” he says.

When he was younger, Te Ahuru like most other baby boomers, would play out on the street or at friend’s houses. Most, if not all interaction was done face to face. On the odd occasion, he’d use a phone to ring a friend.

Growing up he was expected to get a good education and get a house… eventually. He wanted to get a good education to ensure a better job opportunities in the future. He didn’t attend university but did attend courses and ensured he always picked up part-time jobs to “put his foot in the door”.

At 18, Te Ahuru had left school and his single focus was to make sure he knew what he was doing career wise to ensure his success and having grown up in a single parent home he wanted to make sure he could help his family.

“I wanted to make sure I did well to help my mum and younger siblings and the only way I could do that was to get a good education and job,” he says.

Nowadays Te Ahuru focuses on health and financial security as he’s getting older. However family, caring for them and ensuring their well-being is still paramount.

“I got a house when I was a bit older with my father and stayed focused on my family and making sure they’re all okay,” says Te Ahuru.

In his life the biggest advancement in society is the recognition of New Zealand as multicultural. He is thankful to have seen the Maori language and culture appreciated in our country.

Te Ahuru understands that gen x-ers, like baby boomers, are career driven and want to maintain a good career. He says that millenials do have it slightly easier than what they ever did.

“We had to figure it all out by ourselves nothing was ever handed to us.”

So underneath all the labels, these three ‘generations’ aren’t as starkly different as people commonly assume. Aside from obvious differences, be it social media and access to new technology to help in everyday life, at the core, there’s not an awful lot that warrants the cross generational ‘who had it easier or harder’ debate.

Even though the gen x-ers and baby boomers were expected to settle down sooner than millenials, all three generations consider family and their future as one of their primary concerns. On a global scale, they all want to help preserve the Earth.

Ainsworth, Grant-Wang and Te Ahuru all grew up in very different ways. However, it’s important to note that their goals for the future unite them and show that their core values are very much the same.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.