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Health Coaching Generational Health Coaching

For the first time in America's history, we have 4-5 birth generations living now who all had very different formative teen years resulting in very different forms of communication and varying ideas about both work and play. What effect does this have on the patient-provider relationship?

woman in black jacket sitting beside woman in white blazer
woman in black jacket sitting beside woman in white blazer

If you’re only considering the clinician’s point of reference and the patient’s diagnosis, probably not much. However, if you as a clinician are looking to make the patient-provider relationship a more meaningful and effective one for both parties, it’s within the clinician’s purview to consider another aspect of the patient and family to make this happen! The patient’s Birth Generation!

Birth Generation Values

Let’s consider how The Pew Research Center defines the Generations today(1). Look closely below.

Considering the patient’s birth generation as a necessary aspect of the treatment plan is something you don’t often see mentioned or discussed. However, one’s birth generation can have major consequences on one’s following a plan of treatment and eventually achieving the most optimal outcomes of care!

You may be already thinking as you imagine what these differences are, “Well, this is easy… The Great or Silent Generation is one whose individuals are older adults and clinically most likely to be hard of hearing or whose eyesight is waning. While this means you may have to speak louder and more direct or to use large printed teaching materials, this doesn’t say much about this generation’s communication preferences or worldview. Why is this important? Because it can make or break the treatment plan and end result health outcomes!

Health Characteristics of Each Generation


Birth generations have been studied for quite some time and research gathered by important groups, such as The Pew Research Center, help us better understand each generation’s commonly ascribed characteristics. Bernstein(2) suggests that while each of us in a particular birth generation will not exhibit every characteristic, preference or belief of that generation, we can say that a generation’s overall values TEND to be aligned with our generational counterparts. These values are ascribed according to world events and technological, economic and social events that occur during that generation’s formative years.

Just think… If you know in general the Birth Generation’s values of the patients you care for, just envision how much better your relationship with that patient/family could be as you implement the clinical interventions you agree upon together. The National Academy of Medicine(3) states that patient-centered care is that which enlists the patient’s PREFERENCES and that ALL CLINICAL DECISIONS should be based on the PATIENT’S VALUES.

While each individual patient will of course have their own personal set of values and preferences, their birth generation can give you a heads up in general that is very worthy of note! See below.

(In parentheses are listed major events taking place during that Generation’s most formative years.)

The GREAT or SILENT Generation (World War II/ The Great Depression/)

  1. Tend to conform
  2. Dedicated
  3. Loyal, Duty first
  4. Polite, Respectful
  5. Private

The BABY BOOMERS (Prosperity post World War II/VietNam War/Civil Rights)

  1. Competitive
  2. Pays their own way
  3. Lives to work
  4. Team player
  5. Prefers personal interaction

The GEN X’ers (Challenger Disaster/Jonestown suicide/Corporate layoffs)

  1. Challengers of the status quo
  2. Self-reliant
  3. Skeptical of institutions/leaders who know less
  4. Works to live
  5. Results-oriented, not how

The MILLENNIALS (Surfing TV Channels/Involved in multiple sports/Continual reinforcement )

  1. Open-minded/Self-confident
  2. Wants immediate results/action
  3. Wants rationale
  4. Achiever/Process not that critical
  5. Tech pioneers

The Gen Z’ers(4) (World unrest/Tech explosion/Diverse family structures)

  1. Avid Gamers
  2. Ever messaging; all forms
  3. Diverse
  4. Shrewd consumers
  5. “Loneliest” generation

Based on knowing these sets of generational values, see how close you can come to a better understanding of your patients’ own personal values and their communication preferences as together you determine the treatment plan!


Melinda Huffman, BSN, MSN,CCNS, CHC


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