Are you a geriatric Gen Zer?

If you were about for the advent of the iPhone, the answer is probably yes.

by Douglas Greenwood
25 April 2022, 12:52pm

@lianzareyes on TikTok

When Madonna sang “time goes by so slowly” on the pre-chorus of “Hung Up”, she was lying through her teeth. Time is hurtling by at the speed of light and we’re getting older by the second. One minute you’re getting patronisingly patted on the head by baby boomers, the next you’re meeting strangers in a smoking area who don’t remember 9/11. Despite the boundaries between generations being so blurry, if TikTok is to be believed, there is no greater shame than being older than you can pass yourself off as. You might endlessly insist you’re on the “cusp” of Generation Z, when in reality you’re more likely to be a haggard millennial. Now there’s a new title to be bestowed upon those who’ve crept into Gen Z at the last minute: enter the geriatric Gen Zer.

It may sting to verbalise it, to wear the badge so proudly, but it’s true. According to Insider, who coined the phrase, a geriatric Gen Zer is someone who was born on the upper age limits of Gen Z (read: 1996-1998). They are the person you see fruitlessly attempting choreo created by a 15-year-old on TikTok despite their council tax bill being 10 days overdue. They are the ones who streamed Sour religiously for months on end when they, in reality, healed from their first heartbreak listening to “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink. They are, by proxy, a little cheugy, the “cool mom” of their cohort. And their lives, it seems, look remarkably different to those born towards the greener end of the spectrum. 

For context, Insider believes that Gen Zers were born between the years of 1996 and 2012. The geriatric part of that pool were in the process of becoming teenagers when the financial crash hit in 2007, thus giving them a real thirst for economic precarity! They remember when broadband became a thing, superseding dial up, rather than being blessed with high speed internet from the moment they were born. Their relationship with technology as a whole is different too: the geriatric Gen Zers grew up surrounded by Motorola flip phones, and probably didn’t get their own smart phone until their mid-teens. (A study cited by Insider and conducted by Common Sense Media in 2019 found that nearly 20% of eight-year-olds had a mobile phone, up from an already wild 11% in 2011).

Of course, the pandemic is the biggest factor in terms of specific changes impacting Gen Z’s post-2000 group; giving those 22 and under their first taste of financial instability as many graduate into a landscape rocked by the virus.

Geriatric Gen Zers, meanwhile, have the rare position of being the last group to experience education and work the old-fashioned way. In-person classes and office jobs are decidedly pre-pandemic things, both of which made way for hybrid formats instead. The latter half of the generation are in high school now, or are about to join it; they have no lived experience of what it was once like. 

So there you have it! If you’re part of Gen Z and have any recollection of the iPhone 3GS, the dregs of dial-up internet and a job you have to leave the house for, then you’re officially considered geriatric. Maybe it’s a good thing -- something you can use to build character -- or maybe it’s just another reminder that time is fleeting, and you should clock tf out of caring about age because we’ll all be old one day anyway. 

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Gen Z