Who Are the Silent Generation, and How Did They Get Their Name?

The Silent Generation is a quiet but powerful generational group.
The Silent Generation is a quiet but powerful generational group. / Morsa Images/iStock via Getty Images

You’re undoubtedly familiar with Millennials, the term used for those born between 1981 and 1996 who seem to dominate headlines for their generational traits of living on social media and being politically active. And you’ve likely heard of Generation Z (formerly known as Post-Millennials), who were born between 1997 and 2012.

But there’s another generational wave living amongst us—the Silent Generation. And they play a key role in modern culture.

Birth Years of The Silent Generation

The Silent Generation consists of people born before 1946 [PDF] and who have been formed and shaped by a unique set of circumstances. Early life for the Silent Generation was influenced by the events and aftermath of both World War II and the Great Depression, harrowing chapters in American history that informed their feelings about domestic life and financial security.

Because of this, the Silent Generation typically handles adversity very well. One 2020 survey indicated that respondents in the category were navigating the COVID-19 pandemic with a stoic optimism, with just 23 percent reporting that they were concerned with their psychological response, compared to 56 percent of Generation Z. This was in spite of older populations generally being more at-risk during the pandemic. Of course, isolation and social distancing are hard for seniors, but while the Silent Generation may be feeling the emotional strain, they’re more apt not to express it—which is how the Silent Generation got its name.

Characteristics of the Silent Generation

By and large, the Silent Generation appreciates the stability of peacetime, embraces traditional family values, and takes little for granted. They might be more likely to ask someone to clean their plate, embracing a waste-not, want-not attitude. At work, they’re efficient team players.

While some may dismiss the Silent Generation out of ageism, their influence shouldn’t be underestimated. They have a large lobbying group—the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP. The generational group, which boasts 38 million members, engages in issues affecting older adults at the local, state, and federal levels, making it a potent force when it comes to health care and financial issues.

Make no mistake: The Silent Generation does have a voice, and it’s one informed by decades of lived experience.