People often wonder if we grow more conservative with age. Some people think that aging makes us more resistant to change, while others believe that resistance is actually the fault of different values in every generation. Both suggest that it’s changing times that prompt us to dig our heels in and resist in any way we can, often coming across bitter and angry.
Both of these theories disregard one of the largest concerns of elderly communities: staying relevant. Once you hit a certain age, society casts you aside as old news and moves on to the next generation of taxes and mortgage payments. This is how our culture works on a basic level. Once you no longer work and contribute to the economy, you’re overlooked and completely forgotten.
In fact, the elderly are often carted out of their family’s responsibility to live in nursing homes. Most American households only include the nuclear family, leaving grandma and grandpa to fend for themselves.
In America, the simplest way to stay relevant is to vote. There’s no age limit on voting and with an entire lifetime of wisdom, older people know that voting actually makes a difference. They’re more likely to vote on average than younger generations, making their political voice stronger. However, even the political system disregards older audiences by focusing their efforts on gaining the younger voters instead of maintaining loyalty to their lifelong supporters.
How then does a generation past their working years stay relevant in a country and culture constantly trying to boot them out the door or hide them away? They have not only been disrespected, but also ignored in a way unfamiliar to them. Many get angry and feel justified in that anger. They soon find that people will listen to them only if they shout.
This results in younger generations only noticing when their elders say something particularly aggressive, usually in regards to sensitive issues involving race or sexual orientation. We use this constant nagging as proof that our country isn’t what it used to be and that we need to bring America back to a time when it was great. Social media either treats these angry voices as a joke to share with friends or as an example for why old people are no longer needed in society.
It’s hard to stomach the idea of generations growing to hate each other as time passes and people forget how to communicate clearly. In many other places in the world, the older generations are valued for their hard work and revered for their wisdom, just as the young are valued for their energy and potential. We could stand to show a little more compassion for our elders in American society, rather than labeling them all as crabby and irrelevant.