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Suzette Porter
When will we ever learn?
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Most people lament the aging process. As we grow older, our body parts begin to show wear and tear. Our bones creak and pop. We start to slow down.

Medical science has done wonders in delaying the effects of aging. Most of us can look forward to a long life – even if we have to take a handful of drugs every day.

While we work to increase longevity, it seems little progress is being made to increase communication between the generations. In fact, some say it’s getting worse. Life experience is being devalued more and more – especially in light of all the technological advances.

The young remain convinced they know better than their elders, and the elders know the younger generation has a lot to learn.

I remember thinking of the older generation as the naysayers. They never seemed to listen to ideas, and they rarely let me try them – not that it stopped me. Sometimes I paid the heavy price for my youthful spontaneity.

Now that I’m older, I realize the ideas proposed as a former member of the younger generation were in reality a case of “been there and done that” for my elders. They actually said no with good reason.

But poor communication skills on both sides result in generational conflict. Instead of the younger generation respectfully questioning their elders about their experience, they turn away, disgruntled because no one takes them seriously or lets them do anything.

Elders could try to explain, but it probably would do no good. The younger generation isn’t known for its listening skills. And, older folks aren’t known for their patience.

I do still remember when I was younger. It really wasn’t that long ago. I’m not yet ancient. It pretty much infuriates me when it’s implied that because I’m now an older woman, I can’t understand. Trust me. I get it. I’ve been there and done that more times than I’ll admit.

I remember thinking “why do they do it that way, it’s so stupid.” Now, I know many things happen as they do because that’s how it works – literally. I also know there is little in life that can’t be improved.

It is true that old folks get set in their ways. It’s comfortable. We like to invoke, the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. We really don’t care if the younger generation thinks we’re stupid. They’ll know better when they get to be our age, as we did and the generations before.

Then there’s a matter of respect. The younger generation doesn’t seem to have much respect for their elders. We’re “dated” and not very smart about the real world, or so they say. We can’t even type with our thumbs!

Yet, they demand our respect and thrive on our praise, while secretly planning our demise. They covet our ability to take on more responsibility – something they perceive as power.

Imagine what could happen if the younger generation recognized the value of experience and understood what it meant to earn that prized position of seniority. What if they understood seniority in the workplace didn’t just mean more vacation time and maybe a bigger salary. Seniority really means many years of job/life experience.

But just for a moment, let’s imagine young people and old people working together respectfully to create that better world.

Of course, it would take improved communication skills – and I don’t mean texting. It would require those with seniority taking time to listen to an idea – even if it has been tried and failed. Instead of the younger generation dissing their elders, they would learn from their experience and use it to come up with something never tried – something new.

If the young could just understand, the importance the older generation puts on not repeating their mistakes.

The young believe they can skip steps, running to the top of the mountain without a plan for getting down. The old have fallen off that mountain a time or two. We don’t want to do it again. We prefer to plan a safe descent. We like working with a safety line. That’s how we survive.

It’s true that older folks become comfortable with things the way they are. They’re resistant to change without a really good reason. They lose patience when those younger insist on doing what’s already been tried unsuccessfully, especially when someone acts as if they’ve invented a new wheel.

Please forgive the lack of excitement.

Young people are valued for their energy, their ability to learn and innovate. Older people have great value for their experience, abilities and skills. They know most do overs are stupid.

They’ve been there and done that.

Suzette Porter is Online Editor and Internet Services Manager for Tampa Bay Newspapers.
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