Ah, the wisdom of the elders.
They made their mistakes early in life and know exactly how to advise today’s younger generation not to repeat them – well, theoretically at least.
Seniors now have the advantage of experience to recognize certain similarities from their own lives growing up and can pass along that expertise. On the other hand, times have also changed and there’s much they’ve grown to admire about how young people handle difficult aspects of society.
We posed both scenarios to a group of eight Chemainus 55+ Activity Centre members for their observations, starting with what they respect most about today’s young people.
“How smart they are, how clever, how knowledgeable they are over a lot of stuff,” responded Julie Neal. “A lot of them have natural talent, especially musically.”
“A lot of them are very hard-working,” added Lesley Lambert. “They can multi-task as well, far better than we do. Their brains are wired differently than we are. Some of them are very focused as well.”
Observed Vince Lambert: “They are very smart. I think they do respect the elders as well. I get that feeling anyway. They know about politics and stuff like that. They listen to the news.”
“I find them very interactive, very friendly,” said Keith Thorpe. “As I walk around town, the kids will speak to you most of the time. They’ll talk to you, even ancient people.”
“Children are so mature these days,” Jill Thorpe pointed out. “I respect their tenacity in this different world. They need that. As they grow up, they’re going to have a lot more to grapple with.”
“Compared to my childhood, I think today’s kids have so many opportunities, it’s fantastic,” noted Hugh Morrison. “The opportunities are there and the kids are taking advantage of it.”
“I think they’re adventurous,” remarked Anne Morrison. “I respect they don’t settle. There is a passion and a confident independence. There’s a flexibility and adventurous spirit and they’re really passionate about their beliefs.”
Citing her own grandchildren as an example, “they’ve got an answer for everything and they’re going to attack the world,” she added.
Bea Michie has a wide range of young people in her family network of 12 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren from which to formulate her observations.
Even one who’s only four years old, “I don’t think there’s a subject I can talk about he doesn’t understand,” she said. “He’s amazing.”
The mistakes seniors worry that today’s youth are making brought a range of responses from recollections of their own pasts to trends that are completely foreign and baffling to them.
“The situation of the planet in general – not to be so materialistic and start thinking about ecology more,” Michie identified as a concern.
Anne Morrison said learning that substance abuse or addictions are not going to solve their pain would be her advice.
“There’s some real serious decisions they’re making out of their own desperation,” offered Morrison, who works as a counsellor and family therapist. “Everyone’s trying to find their way. When I see young people smoking, it saddens me.”
Hugh Morrison said technology advancement is a worry because “it consumes so much of their life. Somehow, in a way it helps them to relate to other people, but it’s not a real kind of relationship. It can go wrong so quickly – just too much reliance on technology.”
“I don’t worry,” offered Jill Thorpe. “They make lots of mistakes like we all did. I’m just hoping all those people that make these mistakes have compassionate adults to help them along.”
“I find it difficult to understand how they get into these drugs,” said Keith Thorpe. “It worries me why these kids need it. I lived in a bit of a sheltered upbringing. It’s just a different era. It’s the families, that’s where it starts most of the time.”
“I think the kids they put stuff on Facebook and the Internet and everyone sees what they’re doing,” noted Vince Lambert.
He added “they’re too open” with considerable information about themselves that doesn’t need to be exposed to everyone.
“I think a lot of the kids want instant gratification and no one wants to fail anymore,” Lesley Lambert explained. “You get certificates for being there now. I think that’s become an expectation for them.
“Failure’s part of the world, part of life. Somewhere along the way, the kids are going to fail.”
Peer pressure is also significant in their lives and affects their decision-making, Lambert added.
“I think kids want to be so accepted, it’s hard for them to say no. That’s not really new.”
Their thought process is to make it a “Hallmark world,” according to Hugh Morrison.
Neal cites the family unit as weighing heavily on youth. “Most parents work and kids are left on their own quite a bit,” she said. “It starts at home.”
Members of the group had several ideas for how to bring the two age groups together and come to a better understanding.
Hosting a Young Entertainers and Artists Show the last two years is one of the things the 55+ Activity Centre in Chemainus has done to bridge the gap.
“Our kids’ show we do here has given the kids a chance to showcase themselves and it’s given us a chance to know them as well,” said Lesley Lambert, who organized the shows and served as MC.
Anne Morrison advocated for a type of adopt-a-grandparent program that she experienced while living in Port Alberni.
“There’s many families without any extended family nearby,” she pointed out. “There’s also many young people who could appreciate a grandparent presence.”
The program worked beautifully and lifetime bonds were formed, Morrison noted.
“The relationship-building between younger and older people is important and we do have to create artificial ways to bring them together.”
It’s important not to pass judgment too quickly on young people, the seniors agreed. “Most kids are good kids, they really are,” said Lesley Lambert.
The Lamberts were recently at HMCS Quadra in Comox, a cadet training centre, that drove the point home. It wasn’t necessarily about readying kids for the military, just adult life with some great skills.
“We saw about 1,000 kids who were graduating, all in uniform, all proud of the Canadian flag,” noted Lesley.
“We just have to be cognizant that most of them are great kids.”