Demographics in many ways define the social structure of a nation and it is very useful to understand the generations when designing a multi-generational aquatic facility. Generation X is the generation born after the Western post WWII baby boom and as a generation they have the following characteristics:
- Work towards high-quality end results
- Balance between work and life – Work to live, not live to work
- Flexible work hours/job sharing is appealing
- See themselves as a marketable commodity
- Technically competent
Generation X is the mature family market and early empty-nesters. In their aquatic experiences they desire having quality family experiences so amenities like wave pools, lazy rivers, and family water slides all appeal to this generation. Due to their independent and competitive nature, they also enjoy the competitive aspects of swimming and due to their continued aging they also realize that after competing they enjoy the leisure and social aspects of the aquatic environment which can involve hot tubs and swim up bars.
Generation Y is the generation of the Millennial. There are no precise dates for this generation, but typically they are defined as those born between the early 1980’s into the early 2000’s. Generation Y is defined by the following characteristics:
- Family orientated
- Technically savvy – the first to grow up with the internet
- Experiential in nature
- Team players
- Communicators – social media
- Collaborative in nature
- Like to be loved
Generation Y, or the Millennial generation, is the generation of single adults and young families. This generation being young and experiential in nature like thrill rides. The more aggressive the ride, the better it is loved. Due to their experiential nature, aquatic rides such as the Flow-rider are a hit as they can continually improve their performance over time and they can also change the experience as their skill set advances from a body board to a surf board. Team sports that can be played in water ranging from volleyball to underwater hockey are enjoyed by this generation. Social settings such as wave pools and rivers also appeal to Generation Y.
Young families enjoy the exploration and discovery of aquatic play features in shallow water. Families bond while participating in discovery experiences and aquatic facilities can provide many avenues for this experience to occur. One of the most important aquatic activities for young families is the learn to swim programs for the next generation.
Generation Z is loosely defined as the people born after Generation Y. This includes all who are children or young adults. This generation is defined by the following characteristics:
- Technically savvy – smart phones, tablets, electronics
- Socially aware
- Self-starting, entrepreneurial in nature
- Socially connected
- Want to impact the world
With the explosion of social media in the last number of years, generation Z is entirely connected both socially and electronically. This allows them to share their lives either in person or digitally with their friends. Hanging out and sharing experiences with friends is extremely important for this generation. Therefore almost everything that encompasses recreational aquatics is desirable from this generation. As a digitally connected generation, videos of activities, race times, etc. are desirable and loaded onto social media to connect to those that are not present.
The great news about designing multi-generational facilities is that there is significant overlap in the types of activities desired even though the generations may be participating for different reasons. Knowing the characteristics of each generation allows for a design and programming approach to aquatic facilities that promotes experiential activities for all generations and provides for meaningful competitive, recreational and social outlets for the community.