Maas, I., Borchelt, M., & Mayer, K. U. (1999). Generational experiences of old people in Berlin. In P. B. Baltes, & K. U. Mayer (Eds.), The Berlin Aging Study: Aging from 70 to 100 (pp. 83-110). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In this chapter we discuss those characteristics of the participants in the Berlin Aging Study which can be attributed to their belonging to different birth cohorts. We ask whether general trends in societal development can be discerned by examining the educational achievement, employment and occupational careers, family formation, and health impairments of three cohort groups (born 1887-1900, 1901-10, and 1911-22). We further investigate the differential effects of historical events and periods, in particular the two World Wars and the Great Depression, and examine how these effects are still perceptible in old age. We would like to highlight two of the many descriptive findings. First, the younger cohorts did not have more successful career paths than the older ones. Although the younger men and women had a better education, they were hit harder by historical events, and ended their careers on the same level as the older cohorts. Second, we invalidate the myth of the "golden age" where large families cared for the oldest cohorts. In fact, older cohorts more often remained single, had less children, and were at a higher risk of losing their children at an early age.