Youthful potential should complement, not denigrate, elder wisdom

PUTNEY — Words and phrases like “old,” “elderly,” “aged,” “past one's prime,” “advanced in years,” “long in the tooth,” “in one's dotage,” “doddering,” “decrepit,” “senile,” “not long for this world,” and “no spring chicken” all describe the older generation, which starts at no precise age.

Most of these words are particularly not flattering and do not truly reflect the true nature or competence of this older population, yet these are the only words or phrases that describe this group.

Then there are the comments that are heard, seen, or read on the media, like “only a grandma would do that,” or “computers are too complicated for him to use,” usually said with a smirk or laugh.

The implication is that these people are not competent to think, learn, or care for themselves.

These stereotypes are not flattering and do not truly describe the person.

If I were to use the “n-word,” people would be offended and take me to task for being insensitive or even bigoted. But it would be OK to call me a “doddering old lady” or “old bag,” probably behind my back, and not realize how hurtful and untrue this can be.

We of the older generation have aged at different rates and in different ways. Some of us do have physical problems that can slow us down, but those problems do not disable us from a functional lifestyle, including intellectual and physical functioning.

Some have shown mental decline, but most of us are still thinking clearly in our 70s and beyond, and we continue to lead productive lives, either in the workforce or in community-based activities.

In many other cultures, the elder generations are revered and looked up to for their knowledge gained over many years of experience. Here in this country, the younger generation is revered. But youth have all the potential going for them, yet none of the slowly gained knowledge of the older generation.

Without the benefit of this knowledge, the young among us can make hasty and costly decisions that might be harmful or even destructive to them and to our society.

All of us - whether we have the vigor of youth or the knowledge of experience and of age - can complement one another. All insight and knowledge needs to be used, from the youngest to the oldest person. By using this untapped store of knowledge of older people, we may have a chance to get to a higher plane of life and civilization.

Instead, ageist stereotypes continue, diminishing people in a generation and the knowledge they possess.

Let's put these two age groups together and experience a view that's slightly different from the usual. We may just create a better world.

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