Seniors have much to share
April 22, 2013
by Ivan Raconteur

In this age of rapidly changing technology, and obsession with the latest fads, we sometimes lose sight of one of the most valuable assets in our society.

The group commonly referred to as “senior citizens” possesses something that younger people don’t – a wealth of experience.

Some seniors may struggle as they try to figure out the latest electronic gadgets, but that is hardly surprising, since these people grew up in an era when phones had dials, were connected to cords, and may have been attached to walls.

If seniors seem confused by computers, we should remember they grew up before personal computers were developed.

When today’s seniors were young, if they wanted to calculate a mathematical problem, they got out a pencil and paper and did the math.

If they wanted to look something up, they went to a library and consulted the card catalog.

And, if they wanted to find someone’s address or phone number, they looked in an address book – an actual book with pages and a binding – or in a telephone book.

The thing we should focus on when we think about seniors is not the things they don’t know, but the countless things they do know.

Seniors know how to survive in good times and bad. They know about wars and hardship.

They know and understand more history than we can imagine, not because they read about it in books (although most of them did that, too), but because they were there. They lived these things, and saw first-hand how they affected people and communities.

Senior citizens have skills about which many younger people don’t have a clue, because today’s seniors learned to do things for themselves, before we relied on technology, automation, and mass production to do everything for us.

Seniors don’t need a calculator or computer to calculate change in a retail transaction. They can do it in their heads, because that is how they learned to do it.

It may make things run more quickly to have computers perform calculations for us. It might be better, though, to have cashiers who understood the simple arithmetic behind the transactions, especially when computers fail.

That is only one small example of how things have changed.

There are times when people, including seniors themselves, accept the fallacy that seniors have nothing left to contribute to society.

The truth is, they have much to offer, and we can learn a great deal from them if we take the time to listen.

The best thing seniors can do for young people is to spend some time with them.

It is much more valuable for seniors to spend time with their grandchildren than to spend money on them.

When seniors volunteer to spend time with others in the community, everyone wins.

This may involve sharing a craft or skill of some kind.

Perhaps it may involve passing on an appreciation of nature by spending time with young people outdoors, and sharing stories and memories of how things used to be.

All of us will be better equipped to understand the present and predict the future if we understand how things came to be the way they are, and seniors know more about that than anyone else.

Some seniors might enjoy teaching a kid fishing, or sharing knowledge about wildlife or plants.

They know about these things because they spent time outdoors when they were young, rather than sitting indoors in front of some electronic device.

Perhaps senior citizens can share knowledge of art or literature, or architecture, or whatever else interests them.

In some cases, we are losing cultural literacy because young people spend so much time in voluntary isolation, interacting with electronic gadgets rather than face-to-face with other people.

Whether it is a walk in a park, or a simple shared meal, there are easy and inexpensive ways seniors can pass on lore of days gone by.

Senior citizens have much to teach us. The best thing the rest of us can do is to be prepared to listen.

Experience is an excellent teacher. It has, however, one important fault – it generally arrives late.

A wise man learns from his experiences. A really wise man learns from the experiences of others, thus potentially eliminating some unpleasant bumps along the way.

Young people can learn from older people, and vice-versa.

Perhaps more important than the information exchanged, though, is the connections that can be formed between people of different generations.

There are some things we simply can’t get from computers or books.

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