As far as most people are concerned retirement communities are places where so-called old people reside.
Behind village gates an interesting phenomenon is taking place. To date there has not been much talk about the occurrence possibly because the area of focus involves one group of people known as The Silent Generation. And another dubbed the Baby Boomers.
Those who think that these ‘elders’ are cut from the same cloth, in particular the even younger generations involved with their wellbeing and care, are in for a surprise.
While the groups may share older age in common, their world views, life experiences, expectations couldn’t be more different. The further irony is that this group known as The Silent Generation are actually the parents of many of the so-called Baby Boomers.
So who are these two generations living as one in retirement communities? And why are their experiences and outlooks frequently quite different?
The term “Silent Generation” (those born 1928-1945) was first documented in a 1951 Time magazine article, which claimed that the most startling fact about this generation was its silence.
The oldest members of this generation were born at or near the beginning of the Great Depression. They were children during World War II and came of age during the 1950s and 60s. This generation is significantly smaller than their predecessors, those of the Greatest Generation (born 1900 – 1927), and smaller than the next generation, the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964).
Many scholars believe that the Silent Generation’s low birth rate was due to the uncertainty and difficult conditions of the time, which meant that fewer people felt secure in starting families and raising children.
United States historian Robert Smith (born 1926) notes: “By comparison with the Flaming Youth of their fathers and mothers, today's younger generation (meaning the silent ones) is a still, small flame. Youth today is waiting for the hand of fate to fall on its shoulders, meanwhile working fairly hard and saying almost nothing. The most startling fact about the generation is its silence. With some rare exceptions, youth is nowhere near the rostrum. It does not issue manifestoes, make speeches or carry posters. It has been called the "Silent Generation." But what does the silence mean? What, if anything, does it hide? Or are youth's elders merely hard of hearing?”
Though there is a degree of generalisation members of this ‘silent’ cohort share similar attributes and characteristics, says Smith.
The Silent Generation is thrifty. Members of this generation were born at a time when, because of war rationing and economic uncertainty, some of their parents could barely afford to feed them. This tragic situation led to a new way of thinking about resources, and these children found themselves raised with thriftiness in mind.
The Silent Generation is respectful. Members of this generation typically have a deep respect for authority. They often worked in the same job or company for the majority of their careers. They do not question authority, always being grateful for anything done for them or with them.
The Silent Generation is loyal. Members of this generation are not only loyal to their careers but also to their religious beliefs, their relationships, and their families. They value stability and likewise are stable and dependable. They tolerate things they don’t necessarily agree with when they see the situation is favoured by others. They tolerate personal discomfort as they consider it selfish and taking from others to ask for assistance or to complain.
The Silent Generation is determined. This generation experienced many difficult times and challenges. Survival required grit and strength and a strong sense of determination. The oft used expression to describe this attitude and behaviour was ‘keep quiet and put up with’.
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Date Published: August 2023
To be reviewed: August 2026