At 10:00 in the evening as I sit in my West Village garden, the city is remarkably quiet. There is a dusting of white pear tree blossom petals everywhere. No jets passing over, the sirens are a distant wail in my deserted neighborhood. It is as if 150 years has disappeared. It hasn’t.
Next Gen Angst
For my GenZ 19-year-old this is a cataclysmic time. It is the first time in her adult memory the broader world has intruded on her life, uninvited. Her college sent her home. Her physical isolation is profound. And while Zoom gatherings are a temporary patch, she recognizes that she has five senses, three of which are being very poorly Zoom served.
No question that PostPan our social niceties will be in transition. As an Asian raised American, I’ve always liked bowing. As a traveler, the fist bump rather than the handshake is friendlier and, in a way, more intimate. But I recognize that greetings for a large aging alpha male have been my choice, but for my stepdaughter? Is she willing to give up hugs?
Redefining Our World
PostPan will have dramatic implications for the world as a whole. Our definitions of clean are going to recalibrated. Our relationship to technology and shopping will change and our living choices will be rethought. Branding, the popular practice of business in the 20th century will need to be reinvented (or thrown out). Quality and value issues will be articulated and established in completely different ways. The battles between P&G and Kirkland, 365 and Nestle, much less Levi’s and Lululemon aren’t going to be about advertising or even pricing, but rather anchored in the evolution of peer reviewing.
For my 19-year-old this is a cataclysmic time. It is the first time in her adult memory the broader world has intruded on her life, uninvited. Her college sent her home. Her physical isolation is profound.
City living is going to be reexamined. After having been forced to stay home our cooking skills and personal interests will have been affected. Walmart reports that one of their fastest-growing general merchandise categories is small kitchen appliances: think rice cookers and panini makers. Many of us are either putting on weight or taking it off. What is true is that we just aren’t staying the same. What is thought-provoking is how the impact will affect different generations. Some quick thoughts.
- Boomers are going to alter their retirement planning. Safer, smaller, easier. Our global access is electronic, thus getting more from being local is taking on greater importance.
- PlaceMaking, the modern living movement focusing on walkable communities, was getting global attention before the pandemic. That interest will accelerate.
- My prediction is that smaller cities housing university medical schools are going to be more attractive. The news reports about the death rates for the aged and their critical care issues will not be easily forgotten. It isn’t living next to the Mayo Clinic that matters, Iowa City and its university hospital would be a better all-around choice.
What are Boomers going to be buying? PostPan their closets are going to be emptier, but that doesn’t mean filling them up again. That affluent 70+ year old woman is never going to look at Prada the same way. We will see a growth in small scale consumable indulgencies: think food and drink. The ne mantra is “How can I make this moment special?” Will leisure retirement travel come back? Kiss the major cruise ships goodbye. At the uber-luxury end, nautical adventuring will be for the fit and adventurous willing to pay the premium. Long gone are the buffet tables.
Generation X made it through 9-11 and the recession years of 2008-20011. They are getting slammed again – even worse.
- The value of their houses has/will decline.
- What is essential is self-defined. Remember this is the generation whose wallets were invaded by connectivity issues: internet access and mobile phone services are non-negotiable costs.
- Add to housing and medical insurance, the cost of sending a kid to college. No wonder they gravitated to Trader Joe’s and TJ Maxx as ways to better manage their money.
- The number of middle-class Xers living paycheck to paycheck is well documented. PostPan, some of those Xers will have lost jobs. For married couples the strain is exacerbated by the reality that supporting a family in the 21st century takes two incomes, not one.
- Gen-X faces downward mobility. Vacation homes will be tough to sell. The new car market shrinks as consumers realize that a good Subaru can go 250,000 miles and they really don’t need a new car.
- The focus on consumption will be needs, not wants.
- There will be the haves and the have-nots. In 2020 roughly, 30 percent of American households are not in a position to accept online deliveries at their jobs or homes during the working day. This includes teachers, nurses, construction workers, truck drivers – the list spans the spectrum of blue/pink/white-collar professions. And although leaving packages at the front door may work in gated communities, in mainstream American it is not a choice.
- Drone service is not an option in any part of Brooklyn, much less East Saint Louis. We may see the development of curbside locker bins — the fancy ones refrigerated with a digital lock.
- The analog end to our digital shopping world is overdue for a refit. Post lockdown as we go back to our jobs, retail sales will come — back sort of. The BOPIS world will explode. But Gen-X will be traumatized. Divorce, foreclosures, and more.
Millennials are faced with an even broader assortment of consequences PostPan. Restructuring of millennial identity will be transformational. Whatever wealth the Boomer generation still has will be passed on, but not for another ten years.
- One of the most interesting is how their social life will be impacted. Will clubs and bars come back? What are protocols for younger millennial hook-ups, much less dating; will she ask for health-related paperwork?
- The open offices that cater to young executives are based on community and shared spaces. Today, the allure of a non-physical distancing wework space beings to pale.
- The millennial generation is facing their first bout of unemployment. Their parents are not in a position to help. Call it reality soup.
- PostPan for millennials the recalibration of gender identity is accelerated. Boy stuff and girl stuff will get even more fuzzy.
- Households that used to be divided by singles, couples, and families get a not- so-new entry: tribal groups.
- Friends takes on more relevance. The 2010 census reported that less than 25 percent of American households had a mother, father, and dependent children in them. The 2020 Census – if we ever see it, that percentage is likely to decline.
- The new home for millennials may be more like a welive. Separate bedrooms, some with doors directly to the outside and shared common and kitchen spaces. Where babies and kids fit into the equation remains to be seen.
- Millennials will continue their high school preference of moving in packs. Census data trends to the number of millennials making the choice to be single is not about being sexual preference, it’s about shared interests and needs. The definition of maturity will be liberated from past structures, which will open a new gateway to aging: Most of them will live to over 100 years.
And back to GenZ where we started; the TikTok generation with tribal roots.
- First for better or worse, their relationship to money will be affected. Gen Z’s frugal spending habits before the outbreak may lead towards a hesitance to purchase brand names.
- They will simply not have access to discretionary funds. What will define an allowance?
- They are the most influential generation in terms of household purchases.
- They will have an increased focus on health and savings.
- Just as Billie Eilish appears on stage in her oversize designer sweats flaunting J Lo’s post-50 sex appeal, GenZ’s relationship to apparel will be more rooted in normcore.
- This year with prom busted, dating curtailed and living with mom reinforced, the secret life of GenZ will be on the upswing.
- Their challenge today is real, but their identity is still in transition.
- Their future is ahead of them and they are our hope for the human species.
If I have one key thought as I look at those pear blossoms floating in the breeze outside my window is that the millennials will have the heavy lifting of navigating us into the future. They will learn to live more lightly on Earth. Technology will allow them to get small, more local and focused. Their ingenuity and imagination will manifest in a natural spirit of problem-solving. We already see this with the impressive collaboration and cooperation of the global scientific community working as allies against Covid-19. And their younger siblings and even their own children will remake our world in a fusion of humanity and technology. As for now, I take solace in knowing the European Renaissance that got us to where we are now emerged with of the survivors of the Black Death.