The community I grew up in held their eldest in high regard. From a young age, I was taught to give up my spot on public transportation for someone older (as a kid, that also included people that were as young as in their 30s or 40s). Even though I followed that rule, I did so begrudgingly because sometimes I was tired after school, spent a long time waiting for the bus, and then fought my way through to get a good spot. My friends argued that older people could have just stayed home instead of taking up our spots. We were also told to listen to our elders (Obviously, within reason.) and not to badmouth them. You were all kids at one point, so you know that did not always happen. Each generation thinks they are smarter and better than the previous one. ‘What do these decrepit people know about the struggles of being young?‘ we all asked, not realizing that these people were young once, too.
I was never going to turn into my parents and I was never going to get along and see eye to eye with my grandmother (very stern). Until I did… When you are a young kid, it is hard to relate to someone that is not your peer. You think that all they want to do is limit you while in reality, they are just trying to teach and protect you.
When in school we learned about different cultures and I found out that there are societies in which elders are treated with even more respect than what I was used to, I could not believe it. Why would anyone want to be bossed around by someone so out of touch? Yea, sure – they raised us (or our parents), but that was it. ‘The time was OURS‘ we believed and wanted them to get off the stage.
It is common to talk about generational divides, but the differences can be seen within a single generation, too. I remember arguing with my younger sibling (only a few years younger). They accused me of being old and out of touch. My eyes grew wide. For a moment, I did not know what to say. You do not expect someone almost your age to tell you that your views are outdated and that your perceptions are off. A couple of years later, my sibling came to me with a shocking revelation – I was right – the kids really were crazy. I laughed so hard. Everything came full circle and while my younger sibling has always been more ‘in the know’ with the young ones, we both still laugh at how what we thought when we were kids is not what we think now.
Do not get me wrong – I do not consider someone older to be automatically 100% right and the wisest person in the room. I do my research. However, I do think that older people have the potential to have experienced more, which might give them an advantage in the wisdom game.
The definition of ‘old’ changes with age. When I was a kid, anyone older than 20 was old. Then, the needle moved to 30. It keeps on moving every five or so years. When the current President of the United States of America – Joe Biden – was sworn in, many voiced their concerns about his age. ‘How quickly in his term will he die?‘ some asked. It definitely is a valid question. Another one is whether the President’s mental faculties due to his age are sufficient. In my life, I have met people older than 100 years who were sharper than some middle-aged people. They say age is just a number. While I realize that is not completely true, I also acknowledge that not everyone is made equal.
While doing research for this post, I found that the highest median age in the US is 45 (in Maine), while the lowest median age is 31 (in Utah). The reason why I searched for it is that Elon Musk – now officially the richest person in the world – accused older members of the government of being ‘out of touch.’ According to him, elected officials should be within 10-20 years of the average Joe. After I stopped laughing at his remark about government members ‘not being in touch’ (because he – with his wealth – definitely is), I kept on reading only to find something much worse. Elon has been in the news trying to revolutionize many things in recent years. Now, he is basically admitting to thinking that old people are a waste and need to die. It might sound harsh, but that is the truth. Why does he think so? Apparently, he believes that people do not change their minds and if we were to live longer and not die, nothing would change.
Why is no one freaking out about things like that? It is a short way from that statement to – we need to kill those that do not agree with us. I always encourage people to argue, because it has the potential to open people’s minds. Sure, in today’s political climate it seems that many are set on not considering anything other than what comes out of their corner, but that does not mean that these people need to go. Maybe we should encourage debate instead of shunning different views?
Older people are said to have a bond with tradition and might not want to change things. That is true. However, it does not mean that is always wrong. I think we could use a bit of tradition and morals right about now. Older people have a wealth of experience. They have seen what works and what does not. Elon sent a car into space. An old person did not. Who is the wiser one?
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