What Ever Happened to Intergenerational Wisdom Sharing?

Grandpa Used to Share

There was a time when 3 or 4 generations of a family would live together or in close proximity to each other.  In many parts of the world, it's still like that today. But here in the United States, that has changed over the past century.

We're all so busy, and there's so much to do. We are more mobile and we move around. Families don't always remain close to each other. As we get older, we are more likely to depend on Social Security and government programs to sustain us into our elder years.

Sons and daughters still love their aging parents, and they still help as needed when their aging parents need help. But it is more likely that a person transitions from owning a home, to becoming an empty nester, to downsizing to a smaller home or apartment that's easier to take care of when the children leave home.  Then eventually there are various senior living communities or senior efficiency apartments, followed by assisted living facilities and ultimately nursing homes.

Well, there was a time when grandpa or great-grandpa would take the time to show grandson how to fix a car or install a kitchen faucet. There was also the time that the family would spend eating dinner together, and watching the evening news. We would get to hear grandpa sharing his stories about how it was when FDR was president, or maybe even what it was like during World War 2 or the Great Depression.

But now that our lifestyles have changed, a lot of that intergenerational wisdom sharing just isn't happening any more.

Intergenerational Wisdom

There used to be a lot of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that would be passed down from generation to generation, as each generation learned from the one that came before, and built on the successes and lessons learned by ancestors in the past.

With all the advances in technology, elders today seem to be even more out of sync. Technology has advanced so quickly that many of our elder citizens are unable to operate the electronic devices or keep up with social media to the extent that even a 10 year old can.

So without the historic sharing, and with the judgement by younger generations that elder relatives are just incapable of many modern things, older people just seem to get pushed to the side and ignored.

But here's the big hidden secret. The elder generation in the United States today is a fantastic national treasure.  And that treasure is largely being wasted! These elders have lived for 70, 80, 90, or even a hundred years. They have witnessed things that younger adults have never seen.

These elder women were the "Rosie the Riveters" back in World War 2. They worked hard in the factories while the men were at war. They made all the food for the family from scratch. They washed laundry by hand, including soiled baby diapers. They didn't have our modern appliances. They hung the laundry on a clothesline to dry. They sewed clothes and darned socks. They started fires in the fireplace, and the fact is, they were tough ladies! Same with the men!

Those of us that are in our 50's and 60's think we're pretty smart and informed.  But we're headed right down that same road to elder life and being sidelined as an old person.  Really?  Not me!

There will soon be over a million people in the United States that are over a hundred years old.  We could all end up living to a hundred, and I for one do not want to be sidelined as I get older.

It's Time For a Change

It's time for a paradigm shift in elder care. We talk about "empowerment" for young people like it's some kind of buzzword.  But when we think of older people, we don't think in terms of empowerment.  We think in terms of "care."  Well, that has to change!

We have to get back to recognizing the great national treasure that we have in our elders. Before my dad died a few years ago, I visited him and filmed him while I asked him to tell the story of his life. I was surprised to hear about all the things he had done, what he had conquered, his failures and successes, his regrets and the things he was proud of, the events of his day and the experiences of his life.  It really struck me that he was actually a reservoir of great wisdom and knowledge, even though he couldn't work Apple phones or social media.

We are almost at the point where every man who served in World War 2 is just about dead. When I was in elementary school, I talked with my 101 year old great-grandmother. She was alive when Abraham Lincoln was president. Yes - that's true! If anyone cares, there is a lot to be learned from the elder generation.

So let's recognize our elder parents for the national treasure that they are, and let's try to help them live fulfilling elder life. There's much that they can do. With the right assistance, they can still learn and grow. They could even learn to use Facebook. And they can potentially still go out in the world and do things. George Bush (the senior) parachuted out of an airplane a few years ago. Elder parents would still appreciate daytime activities or even vacations away from home. And there is assistance from companies like AHEAD to help elder citizens to do many things they used to be able to do.

Here's the thing: If we don't value our elder citizens and treat them like the national treasure that they are, then what do you think we can expect that we will be treated like when we are their age? We need to change the picture now!

And the sad part is that many of these negative societal changes were forcefully imposed on us. There were actual movements during the postmodernist era that intentionally tried to separate young people from the things of the past. Young people were told that there was no reason to respect their elders, or to adhere to the tenets of their religious faith, or to value the wisdom of the founding fathers. Instead, there was an intentional separation of intergenerational wisdom sharing. The goal was to impose rapid societal change by separating young people from the knowledge and wisdom of the past.

Moral relativism rules the day. People decide what is right and wrong based on what they THINK instead of on the understanding and wisdom from ancient times that had previously been passed down generationally.

"It is said that an intelligent person learns from his own mistakes, but a person with wisdom learns from other's mistakes."

When we fail to engage in intergenerational wisdom sharing, we lose a great opportunity to be wise. Instead, we become destined to make mistakes and learn the hard way, because we have lost the generations of wisdom that was previously passed down.

At AHEAD, we recognize the national treasure that we have in our elder generation. We are determined to see a new picture develop in elder care. It is a picture of empowerment. It is a picture of good food and healthy diets and a better quality of life with healthy sleep and more happiness and fulfillment in elder years.

And we are highly motivated. Do you know why? Because if we don't change the paradigm, we're all going to be headed down that same road to being sidelined and having the great national treasure of our own knowledge and wisdom be wasted and lost instead of making the world a better place than it was when we came into it.

Let's start the movement to EMPOWERMENT for our elder citizens. Empowerment is not just for young people!