The X Factor Part 1: No Bologna Here: Meet Gen X, the Sandwich Generation

This blog is the first in a series we are calling "The X-Factor: Getting to Know the Inscrutable Gen X"

By Andra Abramson

This year, the first members of Generation X turn 55. That honor officially earns them a chance to buy a home in a 55+ active adult community. It also enters them into the realm of what is considered an “older adult.”



Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980. As a generation, they are significantly different from those who have come before them. They are certainly not Boomers. In fact, they are likely to “OK Boomer” anyone who tries to lump them in with those just a few years older than they are. As a group Gen Xers are known to be more cynical and independent than other generations. They often grew up in divorced households. Many had two parents who worked, giving them both the freedom and responsibility of taking care of themselves.


While the Boomers came of age in the pre-computer era, most Gen Xers have always had electronics. They were raised with video games. The first Atari game system came out in 1982, when the oldest Gen Xers were teenagers and the youngest were toddlers. They have always used computers in their workplaces and are expert texters.

If you had this as a child, you are probably a member of Generation X.

While they are tech natives, most Gen Xers also remember simpler times of playing outside after school and only returning home when it began to get dark. They are the generation that likes to text a friend to come meet them so they can chat in person over coffee.

Gen Xers will use electronics as a tool to facilitate their in-person get togethers.


There’s lots of good news for Gen Xers: they are healthier and will live longer than any generation that came before them. There’s some troubling news as well: they have been dubbed the “Sandwich Generation” because many are caring for both young children and older parents at the same time.This dichotomy places Gen Xers in a precarious situation as they enter their more mature years. Both their finances and time are tied up in caring for others. They are working hard to support themselves, create great opportunities for their kids, and make sure their parents are happy and healthy.


How Does this Generational Change Affect Marketing?


As the premier marketing agency focused on older adults, we’ve been thinking a lot about Gen X. We’ve also been talking to our clients about how the generational change will affect their audience and what they need to do to adapt to these changes. They type of content that pulled in the Boomers will not attract an audience as jaded as Gen X. This generation considers themselves independent and self-sufficient. They especially dislike being told what to do. Anyone hoping to market to them should be aware of the voice and tone used to speak with them. Get it wrong and you are likely to alienate a Gen Xer forever.


How to Talk to Gen X


The voice and tone you use when talking to the new 55-year-old will need to be dramatically different than the voice and tone you use when talking to Boomers or older seniors. Gen X has always been a generation that eschews fluff and prefers the cold hard truth. Some would even call them cynical. Now that they are getting older they would like you to know that they don’t have the time or energy to be coddled. They want the facts and they want them now. Don’t try to put one over on them either. Whatever you promise, you’d better deliver because Gen Xers have no qualms about tweeting out a complaint or posting a negative review to all your social media sites.    

Speaking of all your social media sites, Gen Xers are on them. Facebook remains the clear winner with around 75% of Gen Xers lurking there somewhere, but nearly 50% are on Instagram, a quarter are on Twitter, and 34% are on LinkedIn. They get their news and their reviews via social, ask for recommendations, provide references, and keep an eye out for anything going on that seems out of the ordinary. Gen Xers also like social action so play up any aspects of your community or product that goes toward helping those less fortunate, making the world a better place, or giving back.

When it comes to getting news, hanging out with friends, and getting advice, Gen X internet use is very similar to younger generations.


Spending Power and Authenticity


Lots of marketing companies have largely ignored Gen X, preferring instead to target millennials or Boomers. Those marketing companies are missing out. Gen X controls more than 30% of purchasing power and they are more financially stable than the younger generations.


Now that Gen X is likely to start showing up at 55+ active adult communities looking for a place to call home, builders and developers need to be ready to meet them where they are. They have the spending power and research savvy to make or break a community. Getting them on your side could really help increase engagement with all your potential customers leading to even more sales down the road as more and more Gen Xers reach the 55 age mark.


This blog is the first in a series delving into Gen X. Keep your eyes out for more about our new favorite generation as we walk you through best practices for marketing your active adult community and other products aimed at mature adults to this unique audience. If you need to know more now (and if you are Gen X, you probably do), contact us. We’ll be looking out for you.



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