Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X often feels like an overlooked audience. With Baby Boomers and Millennials stealing the spotlight, the Gen X cohort of about 65 million Americans has good reason to feel ignored. If you’re wondering what the fuss is about and why they feel this way, check out the Holderness Family Gen X Anthem (I’ll wait!).
All joking aside, you might be wondering what does Gen X have to do with senior living? It should matter to you because by 2028, they’ll out-number Baby Boomers. They’re taking care of their parents (they’re the Sandwich Generation) and have enormous influence on their parents’ decisions about all types and levels of health care for them. More importantly, the leading edge of this group is already eligible for active 55+ senior living communities. Are you paying attention to them?
The Overlooked Middle Child
Dubbed the goofy or neglected middle child, this generation followed the Brat Pack instead of the Rat Pack. Instead of growing up in tight, nuclear families, they were latchkey kids with a single parent. That’s one reason they value independence. It’s not surprising that successful entrepreneurs, including Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey, Michael Dell, and Elon Musk belong to this generation. That’s right. Gen Xers are responsible for Amazon, Dell Computers, Twitter, PayPal, Google, and MySpace.
As the Holderness video makes clear, they understand both analog and digital devices. They spent their time exploring early video games (Oregon Trail, anyone?) and listening to alternative forms of music, including grunge, hip hop, and punk on mixtapes and MTV. While every home didn’t have one of the early personal computers, they used them at school. As a result, once they entered the workforce, they embraced computers more readily than older workers. They remember pay phones, pagers, and landlines. Their ability to move forward with technology is one reason why roughly 90% of Gen Xers use a smartphone today.
This generation sees technology as a tool, a source of information to answer their questions. Their adoption of digital devices trails Millennials by only a small margin.
The Sandwich Generation
This is a resilient generation. They came of age as the AIDS crisis gained national attention. They’re also highly educated. They’re entering the peak years in their careers. As adults, they’ve weathered the dot-com crash of 2001, the Great Recession of 2008, and the pandemic of 2020. It’s also a generation that saw record numbers of women enter the workforce with the expectation they could have it all. Reality was a different matter.
Gen X parents spend more time caring for their children than previous generations. In 2021, Gen X moms spend nearly twice as much of their time caring for the kids as did moms in 1965. While dads also spend more time with the kids, moms are pulled in more directions. COVID-19 made this painfully obvious when women began leaving the workforce in record numbers in order to care for their families, care for their in-laws and parents, and homeschool their kids.
Gen X is often referred to as the Sandwich Generation. They’re caught in the middle of two competing priorities: caring for their parents while raising their own families. According to a 2020 study by GoHealth:
- 1 in 3 are supporting their parents financially.
- 3 in 5 are helping a parent who has had a serious medical event.
- 7 in 10 help pay medical bills for their parents.
- 3 in 4 believe they will have to delay retirement because of the cost of supporting their parents.
Supporting their own family and supporting their parents is stressing this generation’s finances. Pundits often point to the upcoming great wealth transfer of about $30 trillion when Boomers die as a panacea for younger generations’ financial woes. But what they fail to consider is that the wealth transfer will not equally benefit everyone. For the wealthy, the wealth transfer will be a benefit. But for the roughly 45% of Gen X families spending $10,000 a year to help senior family members, it’s unlikely they’ll recoup current expenses.
Given all this, it’s no wonder many members of Gen X worry about being able to sustain this support and having enough money to retire when their time comes.
Gen X & Senior Living
Gen X might not have the rebel reputation of the Boomers or the sheer power of numbers behind them, but senior living needs to begin to prepare for the unique preferences of this cohort. Well before COVID-19, Gen X was choosing multigenerational living. When they buy homes, they look for floor plans with a master on the main floor, options for an in-law or adult children suites, and functionality. Most prefer single-level layouts, keeping an eye on their ability to stay in the home for a long time as they age.
Their adoption of technology and willingness to care for their extended family suggests this generation will expect future living options to continue to support both. Telehealth, connectivity, and aging in place may delay (at best) their consideration of senior living options.
Reaching this audience will require a different approach than the one you’re using for Boomers and their parents. If you’re not certain that you’re reaching Gen X prospects effectively, consider reaching out to a partner who’s skilled in crafting marketing strategies and solutions that connect with your ideal audience. Sabal Group understands how to reach and deliver a high-impact message on the right channels for each segment of your audience. Email Maribeth today to discuss how Sabal Group can help you deliver the results you want.