How can I put this succinctly and lovingly. “We are all getting old.” Whether you are already older or just a teenager, you are getting older.
How many times have you heard your parents, grandparents, or any older person complaining about “Today’s Kids are ….” I wish to address these comments and see if you agree.
When my grandparents were children in the early 1900’s they likely grew up during the depression. I know at least one of them started working in the mill when she was eight years old. She and her two older sisters had to support the rest of their family (8 children including a baby plus their mother) when their father died of a gangrene infection due to diabetes. She worked all of her life until she retired at I believe 65. Not all children went to school, had plenty to eat, games to play, or traveled. Their parents usually were doing the best they could to clothe, feed and care for their children.
So the less fortunate kids in those days varied in their interests. They created hoops for basketball out of baskets nailed to the side of a garage. They may not have been able to afford baseballs or bats, but they found sticks and rocks to hit sometimes.
The “Roaring Twenties with their Flappers, Speak Easys, and the dance, “The Charleston,” were according to Google considered by the parents of that generation to be “wild, boisterous and disgraceful!” But the younger generation loved the freedom and long repressed desire of self-expression, emotions and energy. Here is a video of that dance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psch9N4PmO4 .
Can you imagine the horror of their parents seeing them dance like that after their own childhoods were spent in working or poverty? Yet these “wild, boisterous” people became our (the children of the 50’s) parents!
When my parents were adults the music of that era was Blues and Jazz. Slow danicing emerged and two people danced with their bodies close together. Can you imagine what the older generation parents thought seeing young people dancing intimately together? My parents danced together and they enjoyed the music of that era. They married when Daddy was 32 and my Moma was 26. They grew up in the Baptist church and converted to the Presbyterian church when they married. This probably gave them more freedom to enjoy music that reached their hearts and minds.
My first sister and I grew up listening to Al Hirt’s trumpet jazz, Pete Fountain’s Clarinet jazz and Herb Alpert’s trumpet and band music. Our mother played more bluesy music on the piano and we all enjoyed her playing. Later my brother and youngest sister grew up listening to some of the same music with more modern songs from the 60’s and 70’s but with some older pieces still heard from time to time.
When I became a teenager, my parents considered the dances: the Jerk, the Pony and other dances like them as “sexually stimulating.” I didn’t get to go to the senior prom with my then boyfriend, (future husband) for that very reason.
This was an era when teenagers became rebellious in different ways from other generations. The war in Vietnam was going on and some of my classmates were drafted or enlisted to go fight. There was a lot of anger over that war because some felt it was none of our business to help one part of the country (Vietnam) from being invaded by the other (Communist part) of that country. Some of my generation protested by the guys wearing hair long enough to cover their neck or longer and were called “hippies.” Some girls wore long peasant skirts and tops to make a statement that they wanted peace, not war. There were of course other styles too.
There were protests about that war and violence as well. This fed fuel to the fire of my generation’s rebellion. Labels came out for people based on which political party they followed. The Hawks and the Doves denoted how someone felt about the war. People who weren’t Republicans were called “Liberals”.
Some things change but people when they get older seem to get more judgmental of one thing or another. The same belief system works for us elders about how our hometown has changed or our old home-place had to be leveled for new homes or developments. “How could they tear down our old homes?”
Well, I figured that one out pretty quickly. The world is not always interested in keeping everything that is old around. There are new adults being grown up right under our noses, who care about their future and where they will live and how they will live as much as we do. I don’t mean that in an ugly way but progress sometimes marches on! In some ways our old homes, towns or cities are no longer just ours but belong to all who live there now or in the future.
Progress is often like Godzilla or Rodan, two of the big giant monsters who went around tearing buildings down in the old Japanese movies. They only wanted to make way for their big feet and bodies and their future. Sometimes the old places we thought were amazing have since become old, ill cared for and not so popular as they once were.
I guess in a way the displeasure of some or any older generation stems from many different causes. Many of us are retired; disabled; have long term illnesses; have lost our spouses or relationships with old friends who have since moved or passed away; lost our homes when we couldn’t afford their upkeep; feel intimidated by our unknown futures; are alone, or poor, or just tired of life; had a permanent falling out with our children; are just angry or people in pain. Some have just given up on life and are waiting to hear Death’s summons. Some others are just too tired; too lost in their own pain or grief; can’t find their own way out of the sadness to fight, and they just surrender.
I have seen these painful situations in some of my patients during my thirty-seven year nursing career. Sometimes it is just hard for some who have had difficult lives to want to live when they have little to live for. Maybe some of these people who are hurting are clinging to the memories they had from their youth that are no longer viable. They have to face daily drudgery for whatever reasons, whether self-inflicted or life-inflicted. Sometimes they may want to cling to the old ways they knew as secure and familiar, squeezing out the new and scary ways of the younger generations.
There are other aged, like myself, who have had good loving families to grow up in (or not); had lives with trials, losses, but have the strength and courage to withstand the changes taking place in our world and trying to help make a difference with our light, love, kindness, generosity, concern and prayers. Some of us are aging gracefully because of our upbringing or perhaps a certain spark in us that makes our lives entwined with the lives of other people, animals, nature, the world, and/or God.
Sometimes life is just hard and it makes people frustrated and judgmental. When we need help we are not afraid to ask for it from our children or others. We all need to work together and support the elderly, the young, the retired, the worker, the children, the teachers, the teenagers, in short we need to stop criticizing and try to understand each other, care about each other, help each other, listen to each other and remember that we are all from the same sources of genes, so we are basically all related in some way or other. Let’s try to be kinder and less critical.