There used to be something called The Generation Gap. That was an expression commonly used when Baby Boomers were the Gen Z of their era — the younger generation.
A big deal was made at the time about the many differences that separated teenagers and 20somethings from their parents and grandparents.
There were multiple flashpoints that reinforced the generational rift — drugs, war, politics, music, even physical appearance.
Case in point: Long hair in the Sixties and Seventies — I’m talking shoulder-length, for males — was a badge of honor for the rebellious faction of the Boomers. “Let your freak flag fly” was a popular expression that shows up in the lyrics of more than one Sixties song.
What’s laughable is that who we regard today as the most mainstream and establishment of entertainers — notably Elvis Presley and The Beatles — during their emergence were considered disruptive forces, and a harmful influence on young people!
It was as if a Cold War was being waged. Except instead of two superpowers going at it (the Soviet Union and the United States), these were inter-generational combatants separated by age and lifestyle.
Flash forward to today: I am pleased — no, make that thrilled! — to report that, when it comes to inter-generational differences, we have achieved detente.
Actually, the news is even better than that. Where detente signifies a softening of hostility between two factions, what I’ve noticed recently is a celebration of inter-generational bonding.
First, let’s define what that means. My book Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby BoomerR, from ForbesBooks (millennialbabyboomer.com), introduced the term generation-splicing.
That phrase refers to the muses of two or more generations (for example, Millennials and Baby Boomers) living within a single body.
Inter-generational, by contrast, describes individuals of different generations engaged in a common activity, whether good or not so good.
Intergenerational bickering — which characterized The Generation Gap years — is not good.
Inter-generational bonding — a new phenomenon that includes mutual mentoring — is very good. In fact, it’s great.
LADY + GENTLEMAN
You’ve heard of Lady Gaga. Who hasn’t? But I don’t know if all of you have heard of the man Frank Sinatra called the best singer in the business” — Tony Bennett.
Lady Gaga is younger than Tony Bennett by 60 years, but so what?
She is Bennett’s biggest fan — and collaborator — and close friend. She is known as a trailblazer for good reason. She also is something I preach to young people who I mentor — she is authentic! She is her own person. It’s the only way I know how to be.
Not only does Lady Gaga not care about the age difference between her and Bennett. She cherishes the difference.
The two just released an album (Love for Sale), which became Bennett’s ticket into the Guiness World RecordsTM book as “oldest person to release an album of new material.”
Lady Gaga says she “values the inter-generational friendship” of 10 years that she has shared with the legendary singer. This is a Lady Gaga remark that says it all — “I see a young boy every time I sing with him. I also take in … the wisdom of all his years”
I already admired Lady Gaga as a phenomenal talent, and now I admire her even more for her maturity and humanity. She gets it!
DAVID + TIMOTHEE
Another case of inter-generational bonding that’s been reported in the media is 25-year-old Hollywood hearthrob Timothee Chalamet and everybody’s favorite funny crank, Seinfeld creator Larry David, star of HBO hit series Curb Your Enthusiasm.
There’s a half-century gulf between their ages, but, according to a New York Post article by Doree Lewak, the sighting of them breaking bread at a Manhattan bistro tickled fans of both, who called the pairing “iconic.” I’d call it epic!
It’s another high-profile example of how even decades of age difference don’t add up to anything other than an opportunity to learn from each other.
Another “bromance,” as the Post called it, is between comedians Mike Fine (40) and his mentor Bernie Berns (93). Fine said people like Berns “are the life of the party. They’re walking encyclopedias of knowledge.”
A GOOD F.I.T.
I love the way he puts that. As part of the new Bob Fisch Scholarship Program that I’ve endowed at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) in Manhattan — to benefit Global Fashion Management MPS and Fashion Design MFA graduate students — I spoke to the students about building a successful career that plays to their strengths.
It was gratifying to see how closely they paid attention to what I had to say. There was more to it than that, though. Since giving that talk, several of the graduate students have expressed a pointed interest in my being their mentor during the school year as well as after they graduate.
At F.I.T., it quickly became clear to me from their noticeable hunger for mentoring that Gen Z, as well as Millennials and others, are placing an ever greater value on what comedian Mike Fine and Lady Gaga describe as the wisdom of the ages.
I don’t intend that to be a one-way street, either. As the tagline of my book says, “I teach them business, they teach me life.” I know there’s much I can learn from their questions and curiosity, just as they can learn from my answers and experience, so I look forward to some of them mutual mentoring me.
I am energized whenever I go to F.I.T. by soaking up all the youthful vigor and thirst for knowledge. It’s very convenient for me to get there because I live a few city blocks from its concrete “campus.”
Then there is the sprawling campus of a suburban university, and that’s where there are groundbreaking inter-generational liiving conditions being tested.
As is the case with F.I.T., Purchase College in the upscale Westchester town of the same name, is part of the SUNY system (State University of New York).
Baby Boomers who find value, as I do, in being among university students can travel an even shorter distance to interact with SUNY Purchase students than I travel to meet with F.I.T. students.
NEW SENIOR CLASS
At Purchase, come late 2022 or 2023, people of my generation will literally live on campus! That’s the target date when residents are expected to move in to “Broadview Senior Living at Purchase.” There will be 220 one- and two-bedroom apartments and villas for ages 62 and older.
Other intergenerational living environments already exist. There is Mirabella at Arizona State University, and Lasell Village at Lasell University, outside Boston,
It’s a compelling new concept where retirement communities meet inter-generational living. Depending on the campus, the older residents may carry I.D. cards to receive student privileges, audit courses, and receive free services directly from students, such as computer assistance, health care guidance, and entertainment performances.
At Purchase, in addition to the usual features of a retirement community, one of the unusual features is a Learning Commons, which is “designed for intergenerational learning, featuring performance and exhibition areas, classrooms, a multimedia lab, studios for art and movement, and a cafe.”
Wrap your mind around the kind of stimulating conversations — and, yes, friendships — that can blossom, not just across a cafe table but across generations.
For a student, there is the priceless benefit of learning from someone with decades of experience. For the Boomer generation, there is the golden ticket to tap into the mindset of the generation that soon will have families and shape the world.
As Manhattan psychologist Dr. Chloe Carmichael told the New York Post, “Different backgrounds and experiences can enrich each other in many ways, whether it’s skill sets or knowledge or perspectives on life.”
I’m glad to see that more people are talking up — as I do in my Fisch Tales book — the importance and benefits of mutual mentoring.
Who’s your mentor?