We Used to Value Elders & Experience


Somewhere along the way we started valuing youth

While this might start off as a general and abmiguous complaint about “people not respecting their elders” I promise I won’t stay here too long. I guess I am old now, but when I was young, you didn’t mess with teachers or adults or you’d find out who was really in charge. Now, the referees of society have less power (please listen to Michael Lewis’s podcast No Fair¬†about the loss of referees in our culture) which has been handed over to the younger groups. Stacking on top of this that younger generations have innovated so many new things that are now part of our daily fabric, that we older folks can rarely have experience outduel the latest and greatest.

I think part of this is that back in our day, fact and history didn’t change. Today, gaining more access to research and findings and hidden history, we are seeing our foundation of knowledge collapse or at least being shown that there was more to the story. Older people being forced in early retirement for innovation, speed, and cost savings.

It would have been great to get to old age and have waiting for us the same respect we once had for our elders, even if the youngins didn’t just take what we said as gospel.

What set me off this week was two things. I was comparing medical alert sytems for my mother, and jumping around from Senior Living to Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) to tons of other topics I hadn’t yet really considered, and I just kept feeling the same thing no matter where I went: we are talking down to the elderly.

And I, too, found myself understanding that I do the same thing. I do this, in part, because the world sped up with the internet over the last 20ish years and REALLY sped up in the last 10 with Smart Phones, Facebook, Youtube, Netflix, Lyft, you name it. All of these things that never existed before, many of which are discussing in depth things that were never covered in high school. Of course we are talking down to the elderly who stopped learning new tech and got VERY behind in the last decade and are now challenged on every thing they claim as true outside of family history.

How do we square this with who we are as Humanists, and how we should structure our moral code around innovations? While we should treat our elders with respect and deference, if they continually present as more racist and sexist and homophobic than later generations, what are we respecting exactly? If they continually have the wrong information about wars and how society works, why should we sit in deference to that? If they should just be loved and cared for, but no longer treated as having all this wisdom and knowledge that mostly doesn’t apply, are we not just babysitters?

I am truly struggling with this, not just with my own mother and her aging situation, but those older than me and I how should treat them and their base of knowledge and beliefs, as well as shaping how I believe those younger than me should behave toward my age group, as they will have even more innovations to follow what my generation created.

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