In many cultures, a divide called the “generation gap” exists between the young and the old. It can result in differences in opinions and outlooks between the generations, resulting in conflict and communication difficulties.
Young vs. older
Jane, my wife, and I have changed how we refer to ourselves. We do not consider ourselves old. Instead, we are just older than some who are younger. She and I are fortunate that many of the younger people we are around want coaching, mentoring, and advice from us “older” folks.
Sure, we may be their parents’ age, and sometimes their grandparents, but we experience little conflict with younger people, hence a smaller “gap” than some experience. Since most are Christians, that is no surprise.
As a kid, I lived in Japan for several years, fully immersed in the culture. We lived “off-base” in a small village on Tokyo Bay. It was a wonderful part of my life. I cherish the memories of that time and how friendly the Japanese people were.
In the ’60s, few of the locals spoke English. We had to learn to communicate as best we could. They appreciated our interest and effort to learn their language, as we respected their effort to learn ours.
One thing that always stood out about the Japanese culture was their profound respect for older people. It was different than in the USA. I suspect many Japanese continue to embrace that respect, as it is deeply rooted in their culture.
Throughout our country, how we view older people varies. Although some show little respect for their elders, I think the number who respect them is far greater in many parts of the country.
I wish more young people realized they will one day be that older person.It happens to the best of us!
Older folks often have an advantage over younger generations in their experience, provided they paid attention and developed the right skills. Some older people choose to keep growing, but some do not.
If they stop working on their lives, they will eventually waste away. Their life shrinks as they age. In this case, the young have an advantage. Many young people are working on and developing the skills they need to succeed out of necessity. Why would you not want to do better when you are young and have your entire life ahead of you?
Yet more senior citizens than young people give up and lose interest in life. They may be far from wanting to die, but their life can become almost meaningless. All they do is exist from one day to the next.
Often, these older people have no one showing interest in them. They have little or no family, and no one appreciates them. Can you imagine having no close relationships and no one to cherish you? This diminishes their self-worth, and they stop valuing themselves.
A lack of self-worth is a terrible mindset that leads to severe atrophy of the mind and no desire to do more in life. They lose interest and their zest for life. Their world shrinks to the point they barely exist.
Unfortunately, far too many older people have given up or are on the verge of doing so. Can you imagine being that alone?
It doesn’t have to be that way
“True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900–1944)
Thankfully, regardless of age, I imagine everyone reading this desires to live and flourish. You have a more open mindset and desire to know, do, and become more. You see life as full of potential and possibilities. You have a zest for living to the fullest of your potential. You are the type of person who can go far and impact many in your lifetime.
If you are older, you may have some amazing family and friends. You continue to thrive because of your relationships and love of life.
If only someone could reach those who feel lost and lonely. What a wonderful thing for people of any age to do. Imagine the joy it would bring you.
What can we do?
Let’s start with an insight to help you get off on the right foot. Whatever you do, never treat anyone as a victim. If they say things like “Woe is me.” or “What do I have to live for?” they are caught in the victim trap, wanting someone to rescue them. Do not attempt to rescue them by feeling sorry; this only diminishes their value.
Instead, treat them with the respect they deserve. They have been on this earth long, and their remaining years will be fewer than yours. Help them remember the good they experienced in their past.
What they need more than being rescued is to regain their self-worth. To feel valued. You can always find a way to breathe life back into them so long as you genuinely care. Don’t burden yourself by feeling their fate rests on your shoulders. Become creative and find ways to lift them up!
One of the greatest things anyone can do is help a fellow human being. Why not take some time to experience the joy this can bring? Do you know an older person who is lonely with their life shrinking? Befriend that senior you suspect has reached this stage and do a few simple things to help them. Always remember, one of the most significant things you can do for anyone is to help them feel respected and valued, regardless of age. Spend a little time to:
- Befriend them
- Encourage them
- Talk with them
- Become curious about their life
- Seek to learn from them
- Lend them your ear
- Spend time with them
- Visit them regularly
- Take a small gift to them, even if it is only a snack bar
- Show and, more importantly, tell them how much you appreciate them and the life they have lived
Doing even one of these little things can make a huge difference in their life. While you are at it, why not treat other older people this way? Even your parents, grandparents, or that nearby elderly neighbor. They need to know they are respected and valued too!
Anytime you help someone like this, you will receive a reward of immense satisfaction in your life. If you have kids, get them involved to experience the amazing benefits of helping someone feel valued.
Listen to what this person has to say. As of this writing, she is 102 years young!
“Just because you get to a certain number doesn’t mean you have to roll up into a ball and wait for the grim reaper. We were put on this earth to do something! If you stop using your brain, at any age, it is going to stop working. It’s like if you stop using your hand, it will atrophy. I think doing nothing is a curse.” Iris Apfel (1921-present!)
Imagine helping someone stop and reverse that atrophy and come to life again. That has to rank up there with the best things that can happen in their life and yours!
Remember, there was a time when older people were like you, filled with hope and aspirations. Then life happened, and some slowly lost hope. If they can gain even a little of that hope back, imagine the joy it would bring them.
Find someone older that you can encourage today. You never know the impact you can have on someone’s life until you try. You will not only enrich their life; you will enrich yours as well. If ever a win-win situation existed, this is it!