We live in a world where generations of people grew up in different eras, were taught different beliefs, have a different view of the workforce and have learned to communicate through very different media. A 25-year-old will most likely view the world very differently than a 65-year-old simply because they are from different eras in time. This generational identity gap has gained a lot of popularity among researchers, scientists and within popular culture.
Why is a 68-year-old American so much different than a 26-year-old American? Although it is true that these generations have major differences between them, each generation needs each other. The hustle and fresh new innovations of the younger generation are needed as much as the wisdom and experiences of those who have lived more life. It is the beautiful mesh of these generations that helps keep our society anchored.
The first major generation that is studied today is known as the Traditionalists. This generation was born between 1925 and 1945 and is therefore between 71 and 91 years of age. They have lived through World War II and the Great Depression, and have some amazing stories to share with their grandchildren. They lived through one of the hardest times in the country’s history and therefore have developed a strong work ethic, thick skin, respect for authority and hold three-fourths of the nation’s wealth.
Traditionalists are responsible for many of today’s innovations and our society is grateful for these developments, including the space program, immunizations against measles and polio, and the development of suburbia. Many of today’s views and values are based on the work and home lifestyles of traditionalists. For example, it was completely acceptable and understood that women would be caretakers of the home and children while the men worked throughout the day. Women only entered the workforce when economic hardships occurred, such as during the Great Depression.
This generation is strong and stoic and therefore is the most resistant to health care, including mental health care. Depression and suicide in the elderly are rampant. Many elderly people are leaving the workforce to retire, but being idle at home has caused depression in this age group. The reality of losing a spouse or a loved one at this age also can cause depression in this population.
It is important to note that depression is not a normal part of aging, contrary to popular belief. The elder generation often presents differently for depression than younger adults. Depression in the older generation often presents in physical ailments. Treatment for this group is the same and is composed of both antidepressants as well as therapy. Unfortunately, the mental illness stigma is so high in this population due to their upbringing that many of these elderly patients do not seek help, explaining why suicide is the highest among this population.
According to an AAFP journal article: “Suicide rates are nearly twice as high in depressed patients as in the general population. … Nearly 5 million of the 31 million Americans who are 65 years or older are clinically depressed, and 1 million have major depression. … Sixty-three percent of persons who commit suicide are white, elderly men, and 85 percent of them have an associated psychiatric or physical illness.”
Our society needs more medical professionals who are willing to study and work in geriatric medicine. Similar to children, the elderly have a whole different set of medical disorders and, as a result, seeking treatment for a geriatric specialist may change the way this generation views mental health.
Times have changed since the era of the Great Depression. Many in the younger generations do not want to comply with the social norms; they want to think outside the box and work from a local coffee shop while online networking on the latest social media app. Although these behaviors are drastically different than those of traditionalists, it is important to keep in mind the same morals and work ethic that our traditionalist generation has passed down to us, such as respect, commitment and hard work.
Written by Kristen Fuller, M.D., Sovereign Health Group writer
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