by Fern Gillespie
Recently, the New York City Department of Health and Department for the Aging released a study on “ageism” and how generations interact in the Big Apple. It looked at Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers and The Greatest Generation. The overall median age at which adult New Yorkers said that someone became an “older person” was 60 years. Interestingly, Gen Z and Millennials, ages 18-34, considered ages 45 to 50 “older.” To 60 percent younger than 65 years, NYC is a place where older adults are valued members of the community. Our Time Press decided to reach out to BIPOC Gen Z members of Brooklyn’s Bailey’s Cafe for their thoughts on Boomers and senior citizens.
Kendra Canzius, 19, of Brownsville, is a student at the University of Buffalo majoring in psychology. At age 19, old age to Kendra is 30. So, as a Gen Zer, when she hears the phrase “back in the day,” she thinks of a period of time lived by “older people.” “I just accept that it’s two different time periods. It doesn’t make me feel any type of way,” she said. “Every generation has their own set of problems. So, it’s unfair to compare the truth between the two. It’s two different time periods.” While Black people over 60 lived through the Civil Rights era in the fight for equal opportunity, the Gen Z generation is going through a new Civil Rights fight with conservatives outlawing affirmative action in colleges, banning books, and deconstructing Black History curriculum. “I think it’s the same honestly,” said Kendra. “It’s just different because during their (Civil Rights) generation they progressed and right now we’re regressing. So, we’re trying to get back to where we were. I don’t think one is harder than the other. I think it’s the same amount of difficulty.” Kendra has a personal relationship with a Black elder. Her father, who is 62. “He tends to be more blunt. He doesn’t do any sugar coatings. He says it as it is,” she said. “He likes to say “If you don’t learn then you’ll feel.” It means that if you don’t listen to what you’re told then you’ll experience the consequences later.”
Fahmidah Islam, 19, of Borough Park is a Hunter College student majoring in psychology. She was born in the US and her family immigrated from Bangladesh. To Fahmidah, old age is “anyone above the age of 60,” she said. “That’s when people want to retire around that age.” She’s observed the different lifestyles for people older than Gen Z. “Gen Zers don’t go out as much as the Boomer generation. Gen Zs are more on social media than they are outside. I think because cause Boomers are older and they lived a lot more life than we have,” she said. “There are some things that Boomers have experienced that technology doesn’t really compare to. A lot of them are on the Internet, but they also take time off. Like, read a book before they go to sleep or not staying on the phone all day or go take a walk in nature or go outside.” Gen Z grew up in the age of new technology so it’s tightly incorporated into their lives. “For Gen Zers you’ll see them on the phone while they’re walking around. You’ll still see me outside on my phone walking around or seeing who’s texting me,” she said. However, she pointed out that during COVID, all generations had to adapt to technology. “With COVID, when we were stuck inside, the only way to communicate was through technology.”
Zevadiah “Zev” Edmund, 22, of Flatbush is a graduate of Sankofa International Academy. He’s an entrepreneur designer who creates African fabric bowties and bookmarks. Zev is a Gen Z who enjoys “old school” style. “Old-school to me is back in the day songs and wearing different clothing, “ he said. “I’m into my idol James Brown. People say what’s wrong with you, but I tell them I love that type of music. I like to dance to it.”
Together, with his older mentor — his mother, Zev started ArjanArt Artcessories where they make and sell African fabric bookmarks and bowties. “A lot of people now a days are always on their phone and can’t get out of that habit,” he explained. “I said to my mom let’s make bookmarks so these people can get off their phones and read real books instead of going on the Kindle.” He recalls that part of his schoolwork at Brooklyn’s Pan African Sankofa international Academy was visiting seniors. “Every Tuesday we went to senior citizen centers. We would eat at the table with them. We would do performances and we would do exercises with them,” he recalled. “We would talk to them about their childhood. We would interview them and have them tell us their stories. It really connected to me. We as a people need to get that back because who are we going to look up to? We need more people to talk to the older people to get motivation.”