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Article Archive >> Community

Reflections: There is Still a Generation Gap

Reflections
There is Still a Generation Gap
By William L. Bulla

Recently, a dinner companion at one of our local restaurants, related an incident that had occurred between her and a younger person. She spoke of how disrespectful the youth's attitude had been. This led to a discussion of the gap between today's youths and elder persons.
Yes, there is a generation gap in America during this millennium - a difference in values and attitudes between one generation and another, especially between young people and their parents. But perhaps, even more than that.
For the first time in the history of the world, three to four generations share the earth together. Over the past century, life expectancy almost doubled and at the same time older persons remain relatively healthy into their 80's. Being one of them, I can attest to that!
The old generation gap of the late 1960s and early 1970s featured conflict between college kids and the leaders of public institutions.
Back then, Americans in their thirties and early forties (the "Silent Generation," born from 1925 to 1942), stood in between as mentors and mediators. It was a time when young adults and teenagers clashed with their elders, mainly over culture, lifestyle, politics and attitudes toward authority. The main differences today have to do with values, morality, ethics and beliefs. Many of today's seniors consider today's youth to be spoiled and materialistic. And, today's youth are very critical of older persons. This time no generation stands in between.
"We live in a world of instant gratification. People are just used to getting what they need as soon as they hear about it or come across it online." This is a quote from a marketing newsletter I received.
Therefore, we have instant coffee, quick microwave meals, digital cameras, and high-speed access to the Internet. People are everywhere with a cell phone to their ear. Kids can't communicate face-to-face because they are too busy text messaging. Waiting on snail mail is unheard of so we have email, fax, express mail, and same day delivery. Now! Now! Now! Today's youth are often very critical of today's seniors!
Perhaps it is because today's youth is enmeshed in this lifestyle of instant gratification.
Today's perceptions of older people, as well as the views older people have of them selves, are depicted in the news media, on TV, in film and in advertising. These do not reflect the instant gratification lifestyle of today's youth. Has the media helped create a gap between the two groups? Perhaps it has, but that is so sad as many of today's seniors are a great source of American history. Those in their eighty's have lived through the great depression in the 30's, World War II, and many other historical events that today's youth know nothing about.
Popular culture today depicts a troubled relationship between the senior and younger members of society. The older ones view children as wild and undisciplined. The youth see their elders as out of touch and irrelevant.
Closing this generation gap would add comfort to today's seniors and great knowledge to today's youth.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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