On Being Young in an Old World
I. Age demographics are an important aspect of society. For much of history there have been more old people than young. This was due to a variety of factors, including the fact that common people in their thirties were quite possibly in their twilight years.
Young people are also a much more renewable resource than old. You can always make more children, but you have to wait a long time to make an old person. Sort of like harvesting saplings versus waiting half a century for a mahogany tree to grow.
But times are changing, as they often do in this fast-paced new century. While in many parts of the world the age demographics are the same as they have always been, in developed countries the ratio of elderly-to-young people has been steadily evening out due to increased lifespans and better medicine. Soon enough the old will outnumber the young, if they don’t already.
“The U.N. now projects that over the next 40 years, more than half (58 percent) of the world’s population growth will come from increases in the number of people over 60, while only 6 percent will come from people under 30… A gray tsunami will be sweeping the planet.”
Many have speculated on what this means for these countries, economically, socially, and politically. I have a much more personal outlook on this shift, for I feel that I live in a world that has been designed around the needs and desires of the elderly. Sometimes it seems like the cards are stacked against my peers and myself.
I have a job where I am forced to deal with the public on a daily basis. I have interactions with all kinds of people from all walks of life, but have more confrontations with the elderly than any other group. And that includes the homeless!
Its not easy being a young person in an old person’s world.
II. Some old people are wise and capable of handling any situation, like the dudes in a Viagra commercial. However, I’m afraid more of them appear to be afraid of everything.
If its not the self-checkout machine at the grocery store it’s the perceived machinations of whatever political party that is the opposite of their own. They think the ATM is going to steal their money or that their new cell phone is spying on them.
Here’s a tip I shouldn’t have to give to my seniors: My whole life I have been afraid of dolls. It’s a bit embarrassing, but it’s there, and easy to manage. I just don’t go anywhere where dolls will be around.
So, for old people who are afraid of their cell phones…just don’t have a cell phone!
As for the old people who are simply afraid of a changing world, maybe they should turn off the TV, stay away from the Internet, and go read a book about the Civil War or something.
It is difficult to be surrounded by people who are constantly afraid of new things. Especially when these people are supposed to be role models. Many things are new to me, important things like tax returns and insurance payments. I don’t want to feel like I should fear them. If I were to follow the example of my seniors, though, I would gripe and complain about the things I’m afraid of until they either go away or I am dead.
III. Fear is often a result of ignorance, which is a perfectly natural, human thing. We can’t all know everything. But if something is bothersome, it makes more sense to learn about it than to turn your back and complain.
Ignorance is an easy thing to fall into, but is also easy to fix. Unless you have absolutely no desire to learn anything new. Why should old people have to learn new things anyway? Its not like they have a wider pool of knowledge and therefore a better context in which to place things.
Ignorance, while not necessarily a bad thing, can cause problems for the ignorant and the people around them. Problems like intolerance, and helplessness, and most of all, rampant incompetency.
IV. Of course old people are not very good at computers and other technology that doesn’t require a living draft animal to operate. It is annoying sometimes, but is understandable.
Unfortunately, many elderly seem to be equally incompetent at what I have always assumed to be basic skills of human interaction. They can get away with being rude. And they can get away with being mean.
The young are supposed to look up to the old. Getting angry and impatient with people who are trying to help them doesn’t set a very good example at all. It is ironic that people who supposedly grew up in the good old days of picket fences are often not the best citizens. Are often not the best neighbors.
I could never get away with being as rude and mean toward anyone as many old people have behaved toward me. Sure, a young person might be able to get away with being stupid. But I would much rather be allowed to be rude.
Old people can get away with both.
You’d think with so much experience under their belts, they’d be better at just about everything. Old people should be technological gurus and saints among the wretched. Apparently Experience Points do not directly relate to character level. One more way real life is not like video games.
V. I can deal with the fear, the ignorance, and the rudeness. What I can barely tolerate is when the elderly constantly confront me with wistful mourning for a gone and glorious past. This is not always explicit, but often implied.
“Back in my day you could see a movie for a nickel.”
“Back in my day America was strong and people were tough.”
Everybody has their own golden ages, times they look back on fondly and wish they could revisit. But while hindsight can be 20/20, the past is more often viewed through rose-colored glasses. We have come a long way in the last fifty years, making improvements in everything from agricultural practices to medicine to building machines that can combine clichéd phrases.
The past may have been glorious, for some people, but I am convinced the future will be better for more. Maybe that is just youthful enthusiasm that has not yet been forced out of me. Maybe I just need to be yelled at by old people some more before I come around to their way of thinking.
VI. Like all stereotypes these problems do not apply to senior citizens across the board. There are plenty of young people who are far more ignorant and impatient than even the most elderly, and there are lots of old people who break the mold. Old people who like to go fast and don’t act like the world owes them a favor.
Unfortunately, in my experience, these types are becoming ever more rare. The truth is, many elderly have no understanding of what its like to deal with old people. There weren’t as many old people around when they were young.
So, to the retirees and elderly of the world I have but one humble request: Before you point fingers at the young for leaving your beloved country in ruins or not living up to bygone standards, try and make sure you’re living up to those standards yourselves.
Then again, if things go according to plan, I too will inevitably do my service in the Legion of the Old. And I’m gonna be the worst!