My husband signed us up to attend a senior luncheon. Although I am technically a chronological “senior,” I don’t do senior anything. You can call it pride if you want, but I don’t order off the senior menu, even if it means I might save a little money or get a free coffee. I’m willing to pay extra to hold on to the last shreds of my youth.
On the other hand, my husband, who started turning grey in his 30’s, takes pride in his seniorship. Hence the speedy sign-up for the senior luncheon.
I enjoy hanging out with youth and young adults. They’re energetic and fun and–well–they’re youthful! They represent everything I love, and I respect them for it. New ideas? Great! Bring ’em. Perhaps that’s the reason for my conflict. Seniors seem set in their ways, slow to move, impatient and resistant to new ideas. On the other hand, they represent stability, experience and wisdom.
How can the gap be bridged between generations?
1. Hang out with each other. Share your stories and gain respect for each other. Do you know a Viet Nam vet? Ask him about his years of service. Do you live next door to a college student? Find out his life’s goals and encourage him to reach for the stars.
2. Try some reverse mentoring. Seniors can struggle with technology. Younger people would jump at the chance to show us how our thumbs can quickly dance over the phone keys so we can increase our text speed and amaze our grandkids. Seniors can also enjoy a quick texting tutorial so we know what LOL, SMH and other obscure abbreviations mean. In exchange, teach a younger girl how to make a pie crust from scratch or how to can tomatoes.
3. Recognize and respect the different frames of reference. Seniors look at life through a scope of five or more decades. No matter how strong the scent of mothballs, the younger generation should not pooh-pooh the senior whose default is, “I remember when . . .” or “Back in the day . . .” Remember, seniors have experienced wars (and many rumors of wars) and have lived under numerous U.S. presidents (I’ve lived under the administration of twelve of the forty-four presidencies!) However, we seniors should remember that we were young once. Our smaller frames of reference contained a lot of enthusiasm and love for life. The last thing seniors should do is quench the flame of creativity and excitement carried by the younger generation.
4. Be flexible with each other. You would think that the broader the frame of reference, the greater the amount of flexibility. Unfortunately, seniors tend to resist change. And, younger people tend to invite change whether it’s needed or not. Change is not a bad thing if it’s done in the right way and at the right time.Think of how healthy our generational relationships would be if we could capture the energy of youth and blend it with the wisdom of seniors.
Bottom line: It’s all about honoring and respecting each other regardless of age.
So, I guess I need to honor my fellow-seniors and attend the luncheon. I’ll do my best to enjoy it. After all, everyone at the table will have a compelling story to tell from a broad frame of reference. I’ll go and act my age. And then I’ll tweet about my experience.