What is the Perennial Generation

“That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in another.”Adlai Stevenson

So much is written today about how to recruit, educate, and inspire the Millennial generation.  We have talked about it in our leadership team meetings, and we have examined our policies and procedures.  I asked our payroll specialist to run a list of our 600 employees by age and found that 52 percent of our employees are under age 35.  According to the Pew Research, Millennials are now the largest labor force in the United States at 53.5%.

We researched things that would attract Millennials such as

  • Fair working salary and benefits
  • Flexible work schedule
  • More frequent feedback and coaching
  • An authentic mentor-leader that inspires them to greatness
  • A cause greater than themselves
  • Opportunities to continually grow and learn.

As I looked at this list, I thought to myself, What is good for the Millennials is actually good for  all of us!”

I also realized that our society has begun to label and judge prospective employees by their generational characteristics. We all read about Millennials as ‘tech savvy,self-centered, lazy, entitled, know-it-all.’ Generation X  is referred to as ‘cynical get-it-done innovators’, and Boomers as ‘idealistic, dependable  work ethic.’  If we, as a society, and in our business, label people in generalizations, we lose the insight into the capabilities of each person to be instrumental in creating successful workplaces.

My role in our company is education and innovation.  As I travel around the United States and connect with the care teams, I found that these labels are simply labels. In fact, each individual is truly unique.  I have worked alongside some amazingly committed 25-year-olds –  and I  have worked with some 55 year old Boomers who did not have a good work ethic.  So the stereotype is just that.

I also learned, that no matter what the age of a person, there is a desire to be inspired by leaders who allow them to grow, learn and discover their paths to becoming the best they can be.  Most also want to be a part of a cause greater than themselves. They want to find their tribe within the workplace where they feel valued, protected, and loved.

In examining and studying the Millennials, I had an ‘aha about our roles as leaders. The Millennials shined a new light on my own discriminatory language and perceptions. Although I am an elder advocate, and I have spent years speaking out against ageism and labeling elders based on their age or  cognitive or physical capability – I have been guilty of applying ageism prejudices when categorizing our team members into age groups and stereotypes.

I decided, “Labels be-gone!”  It is not about the generational differences, it is about our leadership and our power to transform ourselves and others by our words and actions!  I recently heard a term referring to people as perennials’, meaning people who can cross over different age groups, and are able to relate to everybody.

Gina Pell, Content editor for The What – a clever list for curious people gave this definition:

Meet the Perennials. We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current, and have friends of all ages. We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded, risk takers who continue to push up against our growing edge. We comprise an inclusive, enduring mindset, not a divisive demographic.”

Yes!  There is no need to label people – we are all ever-blooming and growing! We are perennials.  What a beautiful way to frame a workplace, with people of all ages, backgrounds, experience, and talents.

Inclusive – not divisive.

As a family of perennials – elders, middle-aged, and  younger people come together as one to care for and grow one another in an intergenerational vibrant community making friends of all ages.  This shift in thinking requires wise and courageous transformative leadership, an open mind, and a full heart. Together really is better.

The challenge to each of us as leaders in senior housing is to put away discriminatory labeling of others and work together. We must  create communities where elders, families, and employees are growing, teaching, discovering, experimenting, contributing, and trusting one another to do the right thing in the spirit of honor and love.

Trusting relationships are the most basic of human needs and the strongest foundation for caring for one another.


Perennial Definition:

1. lasting for an indefinitely long time; enduring: her perennial beauty.
2.having a life cycle lasting more than two years.
3.lasting or continuing, as a stream.
4.perpetual; everlasting; continuing; recurrent.

 11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

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