On International Youth Day, we thought it would be fitting to devote an article to bridging the gap between generations, by looking at some advice senior citizens had for younger adults.
Young people tend to forget that seniors were once their age and have gone through similar challenges. The older generation can serve as a valuable source of guidance and insight, as they’re able to help put things in perspective.
Sometimes it may feel like a gulf exists between generations, particularly with changing technology and cultural attitudes, however bridging that gap is easier than it seems.
In this article, we’ll look at the importance of wisdom passed down from one generation to another, share some pearls of wisdom from seniors, and celebrate the achievements of the younger generations in an ever-aging and globalized world.
- United Nations: youth building peace
- Does wisdom really come with age?
- Elders of the world sharing their best wisdom
- Why should we listen to our elders?
- What advice would you give your younger self?
United Nations: Youth Building Peace
While millennials have been on the receiving end of a lot of negativity lately, on this International Youth Day we would like to congratulate the younger generation for their role in promoting social justice, social awareness, conflict prevention and sustainable peace.
The way that young people have taken advantage of the web and social media to raise awareness for issues happening both locally and around the world, has been nothing short of a game changer. This is a new kind of interventionism, but still very effective at drawing attention to social injustice.
On the one hand, this may remind us of the challenges millennials pose to their grandparents. Many of them are digital natives, part of the first generation not to remember life without the internet or a mobile device. However, interest in modern technologies can often arise from the need grandparents have to stay in touch with their grandchildren. So, millennials play a significant role when it comes to introducing the elderly to new technologies.
Also, in a professional capacity, employees aged 18-34 are coming to the aid of senior co-workers who may be unfamiliar with the latest technologies. Therefore, millennials have a key role in the workplace to help older colleagues adapt to a constantly-evolving digital era.
However, millennials also face some significant challenges. Around the world, depending on the country they’re living in, those challenges may differ, but there are common concerns that have led the United Nations’ World Program of Action for Youth to consider,
“measures to strengthen national capacities in the field of youth and to increase the quality and quantity of opportunities available to young people for full, effective and constructive participation in society.”
Moreover, the program raises awareness of the “delayed or fractured entrance to the labour market, governments are focusing on promoting youth entrepreneurship”.
Finally, the message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s, on International Youth Day:
“As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions. (…) I applaud the millions of young people who are protesting for rights and participation, addressing staggering levels of youth unemployment, raising their voices against injustice, and advocating global action for people and the planet.”
On the path towards a happier and more peaceful way of living, younger generations may struggle with taking in enormous amounts of information, while building up a knowledge base. They’re great at acquiring knowledge, but may not know exactly what to do with it or how to interpret it.
And it is precisely when life feels overwhelming that younger people may find solace in the wisdom of older generations. Wisdom comes with age and brings a clearer perception of life, as it provides a bigger picture of how things intertwine.
Does wisdom really come with age?
As the average age of the world’s population continues to rise, seniors have been the subject of more studies than ever before. Recent studies prove older people are wiser and less impulsive, as stated in Psych Central. Here’s why:
“Older people are less likely to respond thoughtlessly to negative emotional stimuli because their brains have slowed down compared to younger people. This is, in fact, what we call wisdom,” said Professor Dilip Jeste of the University of California, San Diego, who led the study.
This means that, what seniors lose in reaction time and brain activity, they gain in decision-making and insight.
The scientific explanation for this statement is that an elderly brain is less dependent on dopamine, making seniors more in control of their emotions.
This research also led to a new, surprising finding: neurons and synapses continue to grow throughout an individual’s life, meaning that:
“The human brain never stopps being able to grow and change, which means it is possible for older people to learn new skills.”
Now we know for sure that it is never too late to learn something new and take some inspiration from younger generations. But what wisdom can the elders share with young people in return?
Let’s look at the following case study, where elders of the world had the chance to share their best pearls of wisdom!
Elders of the World sharing their best wisdom
A Norwegian young man, Harald Fairhair, went on a mission – to travel around the world and ask elderly people one simple question:
“If you could say one thing to young people out there, what would that be?”
These individuals share their best wisdom with younger generations. It is a truly beautiful example of messages coming from the heart. Listen to these words of wisdom:
When an elder gives advice, it is often smart to listen. They can offer a distinct perspective, as this is something that time has taught them.
As people grow older, what they have in common is the ability to focus on what really matters: they realize that time goes by fast and the value of what’s important in life becomes clear.
- The best currency is love: spend it!
- Life is shorter than you think
- Care for others
- Enjoy yourself
- Look for peace
- Slow down
- Be true
- Be honest
- Be yourself
- You are unique
- Follow your dreams
- Do what you like to do
- Without character, you won’t succeed
While some may argue that these statements are cliché, others may pose the question: if this is common sense, how come we find it so hard to put it into practice? Maybe because we haven’t yet found the wisdom to do so yet.
Why should we listen to our elders?
With all the changes that accompany aging, we tend to think about the elderly as people that don’t really understand the context they are living in. This is a stigma that can negatively impact elders and may affect their interactions with others, because they may feel that their opinions are no longer valuable.
You might well be thinking “why should we listen to old people?”
While it is undeniable that senior citizens grew up in a world that was very different from today’s technology-driven society, there are essential feelings and universal truths that remain, regardless of one’s era or societal context.
This is exactly what Karl A. Pillemer states in the Huffington Post, as he points out two key reasons why we should listen to older people:
1 – Listening to the advice of older people has promoted well-being and even survival for millennia:
In prehistoric times, accumulated wisdom of older people was key to survival.
2 – Elders offer an alternative to conventional wisdom:
As surprising as it might be, we found that elders’ perspective often shakes up conventional wisdom, by making us examine our assumptions and make more conscious decisions.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If only I knew then what I know now!
Give it a little thought! There are things you certainly would have done differently and sometimes you may even wish to go back in time and provide some advice to your younger self.
That’s what Susan O’Malley did (in “Advice from my 80-year-old self”). She took the challenge to interview seniors while asking them, “What would you tell your younger self?” Some of the more surprising answers were:
- Travel Before Your Knees Give Out.
- Stay in touch with friends.
- Save your money: you’ll need it.
- It gets more fun!
- Look to others for help and to help.
- You can’t change anyone except yourself.
Susan O’Malley wrote in the foreword of the book that “No matter how many times I’ve asked it, I am always surprised by how people respond.”
While answers may differ in some ways, they have a common core: they address what really matters when everything else fails.
Buzzfeed also listed some advice seniors give their younger selves and younger generations:
- Face your fears to reach your full potential.
- Regardless of age, the decisions you make will determine who and what you are – these will colour your life. Make wise decisions and good choices.
- Have a little faith in yourself.
- Make a commitment to your principles.
- Stay in school and get an education.
- Know who you are before you launch into marriage. Find the good in the ugly.
- Don’t count the day done until you’ve made the day count. Keep an optimistic attitude toward life and never give up.
- Be sure you get an education so you can get a good job and take care of yourself.
- Enjoy every day of your life in this present world…
- Always go to college!
- Take advantage of every good opportunity and use it to prepare yourself to be efficient before creating others.
- Take one day at a time.
- Set your goals and work towards them in everything you do.
These statements are very powerful and meaningful, but it is not always easy to live by them, especially if you’re still young. That is why it is so important to shed light on the wisdom older generations can offer. There is much we can learn, if only we are willing to ask and listen!