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Senior Moments

Category: Aging, General / Topics: Change Demographics

Seniors and Juniors

by Dan Seagren

Posted: April 27, 2008

Thoughts on the somewhat archaic expression, generation gap

I recently read a review by a student of a book written by a professor. Both were in the same school and for the most part the review was complimentary. Now, if the student were under the professor’s tutorial care, that could be risky.

Let’s push this further. Suppose the student was a cocky, brash, pseudo intellectual while the professor was a renowned scholar, wise, mature and gentle. How would that enter the equation? Or what if the professor were a temperamental cuss, thin-skinned, arrogantly insecure while the student was bright, mature, scholarly and altruistic?

Actually, this does remind us of a somewhat archaic expression: generation gap. It seems that we don’t hear that expression very often nowadays but that doesn’t mean that there are no gaps anymore. Gaps exist although perhaps expressed differently. Maybe we’re less blunt today or more open-minded. And it may be difficult to determine whether the elderly are more sympathetic or the youth less vocal.

Our senior moment occurs when we sense an injustice and debate inwardly whether we should ignore it or not. I just heard about a mother who had been ripped off by three nannies in a row. Her circle of friends suggested she should take a few years off from work to stay home and not risk another nanny. Her response was candid. "No one wants to hire women over thirty." Maybe so. But it is also true that many institutions want to hire someone (male or female) who is thirty with twenty-nine years experience.

There are still generation gaps although it is not always easy to determine who’s to blame: the senior or the junior. And then, there is also a generation gap between seniors and seniors. In our church (and maybe yours as well) we have a group for seniors, 60 or 70 on up. Who dominates: 60-70-year olds or those 70 on up? Only a few in their sixties are involved but then there are also 80-year-olds who don’t want to associate with all those old people.

There are also generational gaps among the younger as well. When I grew up, we had elementary grades of 1-6, junior high, 7-9, and senior high, 10-12. Suited us all right I suppose except there were gaps between grades 6-7, 9-10 and even between kindergarten and first grade. I can remember real trouble brewing when kindergartners discovered a huge gap between kindergarten and first grade. They came running back to their kindergarten teacher. We also tried closing the gap by making elementary years end in the fifth grade, middle years 6-8/9 and high school grades 9/10-12.

Gaps of all kinds exist, too many to mention. Seniors are hardly immune but are we gap closers or boosters? We can encourage gaps unsuspectingly. We can discriminate against our own peers in subtle ways. We can hide behind our age by dropping out supposedly to let younger generations do their thing. Yet the oncoming generations need our wisdom and experience (and to avoid our shortcomings) even if they don’t realize it.

Our senior moment should not shield us from socializing or even fraternizing with others unlike ourselves, age or otherwise. Should we unduly criticize our superiors and juniors alike with impunity? Should we wallow in our shortcomings and inabilities having left a world for the next generations with scars and blemishes? Dare we traverse where we may be unwanted but needed?

It’s possible our senior moment gap has not been actualized. Or realized. For those of us who are well aware of our culture with its unfortunate fissures, with a little bit of luck and some serious effort we can make a difference.

No, it’s impossible for seniors to become juniors again even though some try. But it is possible for seniors to bridge all kinds of gaps but only if we are aware of their existence and have the inclination and fortitude in closing these gaps.

Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: April 27, 2008

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