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Boomer Role Models for the Millennial Grandchildren

By Wendy Walleigh August 07, 2015 Mindset

We women in the Boomer generation have always been pioneering role models for our children. The majority of us have had successful lives – in our careers, at work, at-home, or both. We have a great many skills, knowledge, and experiences as well as time now to offer.

Most of us are still healthy. Some of us are in “encore careers” (aka third chapter or next chapter) where we’ve applied this success to move into the nonprofit world and some volunteer seriously in one or more organizations.

So, now it is time for us to become role models for our millennial grandchildren, nieces and nephews, to show them how we/they can benefit the world.

Some in this younger generation might work for one of the many successful high tech or other fast-paced companies. They might live in trendy neighborhoods and have some nice “stuff.” Or they may be busy starting or raising families, while working 50+ hours a week in other professions. But do they know or care about what’s outside of their wonderful bubble of a life?

Maybe it’s time they found out. According to “Global Issues, The Human Development Report” (July 2014), 50% of the world’s population – that is 3 Billion people – lives on less than $2.50 per day. 80% of the world’s 6 Billion people live on less than $10 a day. 22,000 children die each day due to poverty and 1.1 Billion people have inadequate access to clean water.

Let’s Bring the Generations Together to Do Good in the World

When we next see our young family members, let’s start helping them move slightly beyond their focused little worlds by setting examples. BTW, the old adage, “don’t do as I do, do as I say” is totally wrong! We need to demonstrate the action we’ve taken (without bragging OR beating them over the head with the above statistics) through pictures and tangible examples of what we are doing in our communities or other regions.

So, let’s discuss how we found our areas of passion and then identified the organizations that serve our passion. Let’s tell stories about the real people we help. Particularly if they have a family, let’s mention how many of the world’s children need clean water, food and access to medicine.

Of course, we must recognize that with their many other priorities, these young people could say that they don’t have the time / inclination to think about, never mind solve world hunger. BUT most of them do have an extra $5 per week that they can donate instead of drinking a Latte. AND, most of them can spare a few hours every two or three months.

So, let’s ask this next generation how they might apply that spare the change and / or time. Offer an hour of your time – over a meal or after babysitting (bribery works!) – to help them identify what problems they might be passionate about making a dent in. Why not tell them to think about a news story that made them so angry they felt their blood boiling – or think about one that made them smile. Perhaps we can suggest that they use Siri on their iPhone or another oral note-taker to “write down” those topics. Then set them on their computers/mobile phones/tablets to start the search.

For all of us, it just takes one first step: consideration; then a second step, research an organization (Google “volunteering and your topic”); and then a third step, find out how you can support it monetarily or by volunteering.

There are probably tens if not hundreds of organizations that serve any chosen passion, whether it’s clean water in Africa, education in Calif., or hunger in the U.S. It could be through TechnoServe to support a business in Africa or Latin America. Or Junior Achievement ( to teach financial literacy. Or Second Harvest Food Bank in the Bay Area or your local food bank to serve underfed families.

Follow up with the young people in your life, a month or two later, to show new pictures of volunteering at our chosen organization and a heart-warming story about our impact. Let’s reinforce that we all must care what’s truly important – beyond the next app – to combat the physical and emotional poverty here and across the globe. We can be role models that set the next generation on the path to improving our world. None of us – Boomers and Millennials alike – have to take a Sabbatical or quit our jobs to be a hero. All it takes is $5 or a few hours.

What charitable organizations or causes do you support? Do you agree or disagree that older people have an important role to play in getting their children and grandchildren to see the value of making the world a better place? Why? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Wendy Walleigh is a former high tech marketing executive who moved to Africa in 2006 to volunteer for TechnoServe, an international economic development organization, where she developed women’s micro-enterprise programs. Ms. Walleigh is co-author of From Silicon Valley to Swaziland: How One Couple Found Purpose and Adventure in an Encore Career. Visit her site at

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