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Claire Madden on Gen Z: Would they make good volunteers in hospice care?

Claire Madden is a social researcher, consultant and keynote speaker (www.clairemadden.com). VolunteerHub asked her about young people and volunteering in end of life care. Here is what she said:

Generation Z (born 1995-2009) place value on purpose. They have grown up being told that they can change the world. But as I’ve spent many hours researching Gen Zs, many have said to me that they just don’t know how. They are the most materially endowed, formally educated, technologically savvy generation to ever grace the planet, and they’re told they were born to make a difference, yet they often lack the context or next steps on how to make this a reality.

Generation Z have been born into a technologically saturated world. They are logged on and linked up. It is estimated that a teenager today spends 2.7 hours connected to social media daily, with 56% checking social media at least five times per day, and 24% saying they are constantly connected. In my research, many Gen Zs have explained explaining to me the value they place on friendships and relationships, and how much of these interactions are increasingly occurring in the online space.

Yet what has been striking to me is how many Gen Zs acknowledge that they are ‘screen addicted’ and longingly look upon how older generations know how to switch off from technology, engage with the ‘real world’ and be present in the moment.

There are many layers to what is going on when a Gen Z is on their phone. There is socialisation, learning, entertainment, the making and maintaining of friendships. Much of this is positive. However one of the implications of Gen Z spending so much time online is that they have not grown up confident in the art of conversation. They have been able to effectively ‘hide’ behind a screen and in many cases have not developed well-formed resilience. They often have underdeveloped interpersonal communication skills in face to face contexts. They regularly comment on their short attention spans and inability to focus on one thing at a time. Research also has identified that there is a decline of empathy among younger generations due to the bombardment of content and desensitisation that occurs as a result.

The world Gen Z have been born into is no fault of their own – it is largely the result of the society previous generations have shaped for them. Healthy communities build on the strength of all generations, and are strengthened when these generations are working together.

How can we, as a community, provide a context and environment which will equip the emerging generations to be outstanding citizens? Perhaps if Gen Z were volunteers in areas like hospice care, not only would they have a context for purpose, but they would also no doubt grow in skills that have previously been underdeveloped, such as face to face communication, empathy and resilience as they develop meaningful connections with other people from a diversity of backgrounds, across different generations and who are facing great challenges in life.

Pic: Claire Madden

To be equipped to better understand and engage Gen Z, enrol in the Generation Z Online Masterclass (www.genzmasterclass.com). Use the coupon “volunteer” to receive $100 off until end of June 2017.

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