Homeowner associations can be a melting pot of age groups which carry unique values and perceptions of the world. At times, these values can clash at the HOA level and the board is challenged to restore balance and harmony with the warring factions. There's more to it than loud music, wandering pets and illegally parked RVs. There are certain heartfelt philosophies that simply don't mix. Consider the dynamics of these groups:
Silent Generation was born between 1920 and 1945. They're the veterans of the World and Korean Wars. They survived the Great Depression. Their core values include survival and sacrifice. They stockpile food, wear clothes out and eat leftovers. They believe that a rule is a rule. They resist changes in technology which puts them at a disadvantage in the workplace. They believe in traditional family structure and that marriage is a life long commitment. Most attended the College of Hard Knocks.
Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964. Many are career driven workaholics who don't see the need to follow rules. They believe in the notion of "meaningful work" rather than working simply to survive and the workplace is a major part of their self-identity. Many experienced growing up with only one parent. Many thought college was an birthright.
Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980. This group questions their parents' values and believes that jobs and housing are disposable. They place greater value on family and personal life than the Baby Boomers do, and they feel that a balanced life is more important than professional accomplishments. Many grew up as "latch-key" kids who were left home alone frequently because one or both parents worked outside the home. They view college as a means to an end.
Generation Y was born between 1981 and 2000. People in this group have always known computers, the Internet and cell phones. South Africa's policy of apartheid has not existed in their lifetime, genetic testing and DNA screening have always been available. Generation Ys are tolerant of multiculturalism, internationalism and interracial relationships. This generation focuses on individual choices and goals. Many grew up in merged families which combined children from different parents.
What these differences point to is that people communicate based on their generational backgrounds. Each generation has distinct attitudes, behaviors, expectations, habits and motivational buttons. Learning how to communicate with the different generations can eliminate many major confrontations and misunderstandings.
So what's the board to do with such disparate ways of thinking? Fortunately, it's not the board's job to make sure neighbors get along. While reasonable rules need to be enforced, personality reconciliation does not. What the board can do is to facilitate social activities and reinforce areas of commonality.
Social Events. A potluck event costs the HOA nothing yet provides an opportunity for different age groups to mingle and acquaint themselves. These can be carried off as barbecues, Christmas parties or at annual meetings.
Reinforcing Commonality. Regardless of age, HOA members share in the need for security, peace and sustained property values. When the board acts to protect the general good in these areas, age is no barrier and all will be unified in a common cause. Conversely, when the board enacts rules that target certain age groups (like children), discontent and rancor is sure to follow from the kids and their parents.
Stay Out of the Middle. Given time and opportunity, generational conflicts can be resolved by face to face meeting of the parties. The board should not interrupt this process by trying to solve the problem. Encourage the parties to meet and talk (without weapons and lawyers).
Balancing the generations that populate your homeowner association is on the one hand a great challenge and on the other hand a gratifying exercise. While value and perception differences will conflict from time to time, facilitating social activities, reinforcing those issues all generations hold in common and letting them work out differences face to face will help them bond.
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