The Kindness of Boomers and Millennials

A friendly encounter or gentle conversation has the power to set the tone for your whole day. And your attitude can be a catalyst to an act of Generativity, a term coined by Dr. Erik Erickson. He describes a stage of psychosocial development when older adults have a strong desire to give back. It often takes the form of nurturing actions or creating changes that help others. A prime example is that older adults display generativity every day to their families and communities. And studies show that two-way supportive relationships between grandparents and grandchildren provide emotional benefits for both.

Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said: It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.

According to Encore CEO Marc Freedman, in a Huffington Post article entitled “Generativity Revolution,”….eight million Americans are already in ‘encore careers’ that combine their passions with purpose, in fields such as education, health and the environment.” Often, one of the first decisions Baby Boomers make in retirement is to do volunteer work “in causes greater than themselves….that benefit future generations.”

Interestingly, recent surveys show that Millennials see volunteering as a way to further their career goals while making a difference. They want to work for those who are socially responsible, and companies are responding to their expectations. So Millennials wanting employee volunteer opportunities and managers hoping to create deeper engagement among employees are slowly shifting the corporate kindness landscape.

Some think that part of a meaningful life is lending a helping hand. Others are grateful for their good fortune or want to leave a legacy. Whether you’re a Millennial looking for work, a Baby Boomer easing into retirement, or part of an intergenerational alliance, here are first steps to jumpstart your kindness project:

  • Explore a project you believe in
  • Find a network of like-minded people
  • Connect with mentors and resources
  • Turn obstacles into opportunities
  • Stay dedicated to your passion

When we understand our relationship to a broader world, we seek to make it better, not just for ourselves but also for others. There’s lots of proof that acts of kindness can increase your feeling of connectedness and impact your brain in powerful ways.

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is a consultant in family dynamics. If you’re coping with marital stress, boomerang kids, acting out teens, aging parents or difficult in-laws, she has solutions for you. Visit Her Mentor Center to download free eBooks and learn about “Whose Couch Is It Anyway? Moving Your Millennial.”

Originally published at on January 14, 2016.

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