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Millennial Wonders Why Boomer Parents' Attitudes Turned 'Nasty' As They Aged

Photo: Mikhail Nilov / Pexels 
older man and older woman sitting together

The social and emotional implications of generation gaps are a highly contested topic, a conversation that’s often discussed in sweeping generalizations. Yet one person wrote to the subreddit r/Millennials with a fraught question about changes they’ve seen in their 70-year-old parents.

The millennial wondered why their boomer parents’ attitude turned ‘nasty’ as they aged.

Their parents are in their mid-to-late 70s and have grown more isolated as the years have passed. 

“Ten years ago, they had friends,” the person explained. “They would throw dinner parties that 4-6 other couples would attend. They would be invited to similar parties thrown by their friends.”

In keeping with common stereotypes about boomers, the person described their parents as “Pretty arrogant, but hey, what else would you expect from a boomer couple with three masters degrees, two PhDs, and a JD between the two of them.”

Millennial Wonders Why Boomer Parents' Attitude Turned Nasty As They AgedPhoto: Centre For Better Ageing / Pexels 

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Yet now, the millennial noted, their parents “Have no friends. I mean that literally.”

“One by one, each of the couples and individual friends that they had known and socialized with closely for years, even decades, will no longer associate with them,” they shared. They described how both their parents ended decades-long friendships after a “minor slight.”

“All either of them does is complain and talk [expletive] about people they used to associate with,” they said. “This does not feel normal.” 

The millennial asked if other people of their generation have witnessed their boomer parents decline, too. 

“Is anyone else experiencing this? Were our grandparents like this too and we were just too young to notice it?” They asked.

   

   

Other millennials in the comments section shared their own experiences of their parents’ aging process, with many people affirming that boomers, on the whole, seem to be running up against their own emotional limitations.

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One person described their boomer parent as “entitled, lacking empathy, and super judgmental, while saying she’s not at all.”

“Sometimes I wonder if our parents are changing or we all just grew up and are able to see that they were always this way,” they said.

Someone else affirmed that theory, saying, “We're seeing them as they always were, just through the lens of ourselves being adults.”

Millennial Wonders Why Boomer Parents' Attitude Turned Nasty As They AgedPhoto: Mikhail Nilov / Pexels 

Another person agreed, yet upheld the gracious, open-hearted perspective that boomers are confronting larger emotional issues than they know how to navigate.

“I think people in that age bracket just suppressed their feelings and never dealt with them,” they said. “Now that their body is more fragile due to age they can't handle it and become grouchy and bitter.”

Boomers were raised by the silent generation, people who survived World Wars and The Great Depression.

Most of them weren’t given the tools needed to confront the origins of their emotional turmoil.

Some studies posit that boomers were affected by environmental forces beyond their control, like lead poisoning, which can cause long-lasting psychological damage, including “less adaptive personality profiles in adulthood, lower conscientiousness, lower agreeableness, and higher neuroticism.”

Someone else touched on the belief that aging changes everyone in different ways, saying, “Life either softens you or hardens you, and you have a choice about how you want to respond to the difficulties you face in life.”

“I really want to choose softness, even though it's not always easy,” they shared.

At a certain point, no matter how old or young we are, we benefit from taking accountability for how we exist in the world.

While it’s a challenge to heal generational trauma, it’s also the greatest gift we can give ourselves and our future descendants. 

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Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture analysis and all things to do with the entertainment industry.