At 55, I’m usually the oldest software engineer in the room, sometimes by 10 years or so, and I can attest how that doesn’t automatically make me the dimmest, most conservative, or least energetic of the bunch. Younger people still have young kids — or a single life — and most haven’t slept the 8.5 hours that I just did. Oh, and they can be as stuck in the mud as anyone.
What I think is that the older you are, the longer it’s been since you’ve had to try something new. Most of the technologies in use today weren’t in vogue 10 years ago, and over those 10 years, many so-called “older” people have been mired in what used-to-be, especially people who were in their 40s and at the very necessary professional level to do that work. Over those same past 10 years, it was the younger people who were the interns or students (or grade-schoolers) who had a lot more flexibility and time-to-waste to be trudging through the new things.
I think what we’re seeing today is a historical transition at least as much as it’s a generational thing. Computer technology has moved fast—way faster than a career — and that can cause a lot of people to fall out of sync. I wonder if the same phenomenon has happened before, like as the publishing industry went “poof” or when factory work went assembly-line and then robotic?
It will be interesting to see what happens to these 30-somethings over the next 10 years. If technologies plateau, the kids may be alright, but if things change at the same pace they are now, they may fall by the wayside too — a lot faster than some of us did.