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2 February 2014

Older generations offer unique perspectives

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For about nine months out of the year, we’re surrounded by thousands of other 18 to 20-something-year-olds with whom we interact. But we can also find ourselves in the company of an older generation – professors, administrators and community members whose experience and wisdom are there to supplement our own.

Instead of looking outward, our age group tends to seek out advice and companionship from peers of the same age. As time goes on, we’re separating ourselves and losing touch with the older generation. And that means we’re missing out on valuable life lessons.

While other cultures place greater value on the wisdom of the older generation and encourage their involvement in civil society, we’ve been raised with the notion that it’s strange or wrong to be friends with people who aren’t around our age.

Naturally, we turn to peers for advice when we’re going through problems. But how much do our friends really know?

That’s why programs such as the Holocaust survivor pairing internship and organizations like UGenerations, exist to bridge the age gap and give us the opportunity to learn from older individuals.

Rather than feeling sorry for the older generation’s longing for yesteryear, looking down on them for being out of touch with modern technology, or even holding on to a sense of distant reverence that actually leaves us disconnected, consider instead what we have to gain.

If your grandparents immigrated to the United States, for example, they have an elaborate story to tell – about the way things were in their native country and about the lessons they’ve learned from the sacrifices they had to make.

We should be pushing to reach out to people who are older than us, and this extends beyond grandparents. Professors on campus, your high school teachers, even respected adults in the workplace, have all had experiences that we haven’t.

Ask a former professor to join you for lunch. Socialize more at the office. Talk to an older relative at your next holiday meal.

Let’s access the untapped wisdom of the older generation while we can. They understand a lot more than we think they do.

 

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.