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Generational Cohorts of Older Populations: Young-Old vs. Old-Old

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  • 0:01 Generation
  • 1:42 Cohort
  • 3:05 Young-Old vs. Old-Old
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

In this lesson, we look at what a cohort and generation are as well as how they are different. We finish by discussing how these influence the differentiation between the young-old and the old-old.

Generation

I think everyone spends some time trying to figure out what generation they are in, whether it is X, Y, or something else. But I digress on the opinion of other people who think they can talk about the next generation like theirs was any different. In this lesson, we will discuss what a generation is, what a cohort is, and who the young-old and the old-old are.

Generation is a common term used to describe a cohort of people born around the same time. Typically this means someone born between a handful of dates, like Generation X are people born in the 70s. It is supposed to be a small, specific time frame because these individuals share a lot in common, like music, life events, and revolutions. Sometimes the media expands this all too much. For instance, they may say, 'The Baby Boomer generation is people born between 1946 and 1964'. That's almost 20 years of people! I think someone born in 1946 would be very different than someone born in 1964, but they are all considered 'baby boomers.' Again, I digress about what happens when descriptors of populations used by the media fail to meet scientific rigor. What we need is a more scientific term, and we have one!

The more scientific term is cohort, which is a participant's historical framing based on time, and possibly place, of birth. Let's look at cohort in the next section.

Cohort

A cohort is similar to a generation, except it utilizes a handful of descriptors and attempts to make the study of each generation a little more scientific. With each cohort there are also normative events, defined as life events that are typical and based on chronological age. Each generation grows up together, so they hit puberty, find their first job, get married, and whatnot all around the same time. These are the normal things that happen to each generation as they grow up. What makes each cohort a little unique are the non-normative events defined as events that are atypical for a lifetime. Events like September 11th, 2001 for a large group of people, losing one's arm for a single person, or a serious or chronic disease affecting you or a loved one.

Each cohort reacts differently, and it is with these events that cohorts begin to change and develop differently. Just to make this a visual example, let's say you have three dots in a row, representing generations 1, 2, and 3. Now, let's say a non-normative event occurred and jostled all three generations. Now, after the event, each generation will grow slightly differently, resulting in changes that can be measured and examined.

Young-Old vs. Old-Old

When it comes to being old, there isn't a clear cut age. Sure we use 65 as a sort of cut off, but do all 65-year-olds think they are old? What about the cohorts we just talked about, do they influence old age and who views themselves as such? The answer is yes.

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