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Category: Aging, General / Topics: Future Optimal Aging Planning Relationships

Passing the Torch

by Ken Potts

Posted: April 7, 2019

Why the older generation must prepare to pass the torch to the young…

Listening to a young minister preaching in a church I was visiting, I found myself being somewhat condescending in response to her laboriously intellectualized, dry and mind-dulling sermon.

Obviously, she had listened to her Biblical theology professors well, taken copious notes, and was now intent on imparting her newfound wisdom to the Biblically illiterate in the pews.

I was rather enjoying my sarcastic inner critique of her efforts until I realized she sounded a bit like I did as a young preacher some 40 years ago.

No, actually she sounded exactly like I did as a young preacher 40 years ago. And, to be honest, I still sounded that way sometimes.

Most of us in our late 50s and 60s live and work in families, groups and organizations in which a new generation -- our children's generation -- is flexing its leadership muscles. It's not that they're taking over, but they are asserting themselves as autonomous, independent adults, colleagues and even parents.

And they are making mistakes. Sometimes lots of mistakes. As young adults they simply lack the knowledge, skill, or experience to get it right most, or even much, of the time.

And they're, well, different from we are. They see the world differently, work and play and relate differently -- even value differently than we do.

And they threaten us. What if they turn out to be smarter, more talented, and more successful than we are? What if they don't respect us? What if they don't need us?

Let's stop that line of thinking. For the truth is, we were such newly minted adults not that many years ago. And our parent's generation had some of the same feelings about us.

You know, one of the interesting advantages of middle age is the perspective it can provide on being a young adult. Though our chronological age may indicate we have attained a significant distance from those early adult years, our memories often bridge this distance with sometimes startling and uncomfortable clarity. And it is these memories that can help us bridge the gap between today's young adults and us middle-agers.

Each generation's experience is both different and the same. We all play out the same developmental themes, but in different environments. We all struggle with what it means to be an adult, to make choices, to be responsible, to find connectedness and meaning in life.

Doing such struggling in the '60s and '70s was different from doing it in the 21st century, but the underlying issues are the same.

Our memories of our own journey into adulthood can inform and temper our response to today's fellow travelers. That doesn't mean we assume they are just like we were, or that we assault them with stories of our own young adult years. We just need to remind ourselves that we've been there too, and be a bit more patient, more accepting, and even more secure, than perhaps, our parents' generation was with us.


Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of SamaraCare Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Posted: April 7, 2019

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