I was one of the last people to get a cell phone. My partner Arthur had a flip phone and he used to get so angry when he had to use it to call operations because he was paying by the minute. I remember working with a young partner one day who was on her phone texting all the time, sometimes even when driving. I still didn’t have a phone then. One day we did a transfer to Boston and on the way back, we were trying to find the entrance to the Mass pike. My partner has a GPS on her phone. I had never heard of such a thing, but thought it was pretty cool.
When I was a kid, we had a rotary phone, one on the kitchen wall and one in my parent’s bedroom upstairs. You had to keep your calls short in case an important call was expected. We didn’t have call waiting then. We had a vacation cottage and there the phone when you picked it up sometimes the neighbor would be on it. We all shared a line. I had a car emergency last week, but fortunately I had a cell phone and could call for help. Years ago, I remember walking miles for help after breakdowns, hoping to find either a gas station, pay phone or hope someone would stop and pick me up when I stuck my thumb out when they came by.
My oldest daughters were later than their friends in getting cell phones. By the time my youngest came around, she got it at the same time as her friends. I understood by then, that even though I wasn’t crazy about her being on the phone too much, if she didn’t have a phone, she would be missing out on connecting with her peers. She is on it more than I would like, but I have an iPhone too now and I am on it more than I probably should be (even Tick-Tock–check out oldmanjumps.) I do make every effort to let her get out in the world and interact in person.
I write about all this because I just read a fascinating book called Generations, which describes the differences between the generations from my own (Baby Boomer) to my daughter’s (Generation Z). I read the book to try to better understand not just her, but many of the young people I work with on the ambulance. (I’m 65. I often work with 21-year-olds).
These are the generations described:
The Silent Generation: Born 1928–1945.
Baby Boom Generation: Born 1946–1964.
Generation X: Born 1965–1980.
Millennial Generation: Born 1981–1996.
Generation Z: Born 1997–2010.
The book tells how the generation you grew up in shapes you along with the advent of new technology. In general over time, the lament of a parent to a child, “You don’t know how easy you have it. Why in my day we walked five miles to the school through the snow, etc.,” is largely true and is not seen as a bad thing. (I walked 2 miles through the snow as a first grader!) We try to make the world better (easier) for the next generation. Consequently, each generation takes longer to grow up. Generation Z has had such a slow emotional development, compounded by COVID, that many 16-year-olds today, the author writes, have the emotional maturity (and social development) of a 12-year-old from a previous generation. The writer says Generation Zers are less likely to have sex and do drugs than earlier generations at the same age (A good thing!), but the use of cell phones and social media has greatly increased Generation Z’s social anxiety and depression (Bad). The younger generations are also much more likely to be hurt by speech. (Words hurt today, not just sticks and stones). Many are uncomfortable having arguments.
This all has implications for older generations in the workplace. We need to all be nice and understanding of each other. One good thing about EMS, I believe, is that our work environment can’t help but our increase our social skills through the wide array of patients and other people (from partners to the public to other health professionals) we have to interact with on the job.
Reading Generations will help you understand others better whether they are older or younger, and may make some of us less judgmental toward other generations.