Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The New Generation Gap

Matthew Shaffer has a very interesting article in the June 20th issue of the National Review about social media’s effect on the Generation Gap. He says that between trendy retirement communities, highways, suburbs, and social media, the gap between the generations is growing ever wider.

Young people today have a loathing of the elderly and dying. To young people, the elderly are troublesome, cranky, and hard to get along with. However, older people are being shipped to those retirement communities in cattle cars; they’re entering quite willingly. It takes two to make a generation gap and this generation of senior citizens doesn’t suffer foolish children and grandchildren lightly.

Shaffer notes that if families kept their communities together, that grandparents would be available to look after their young grandchildren while the moms go to work. NR is published in New York City. Young families are fleeing grandma and grandpa; they’re fleeing the rising taxes in New York and New Jersey, bound for places like South Carolina where the living is cheaper and easier.

Families are also being forced to flee because their companies are fleeing those states. My co-workers have that option before them: move to Georgia or Texas, or start looking for another company. Some of them are mobile and are glad to leave, as parents and grandparents already live in those places. Others aren’t mobile unless they can persuade their families to go with them.

Friends have asked me why I don’t go to Atlanta or Dallas.  They can read all about it in Shafer’s article, Ages Apart. Mom is too old at this point to be moving.   Facebook is wonderful for keeping up with distant friends.   But human beings, if they’re to remain human, need human contact, face to face, mano o mano.  My brothers (being Mama’s Boys) do the bulk of the caregiving (one helps her with electronic business transactions, the other does the manual labor, and they both keep her busy cooking). My job is cheerleader and referee. I’m also the stand-by caregiver.

Frankly, any family who doesn’t take up our company’s offer to move someplace – anyplace, else is out of their minds. The pioneers took up roots and moved West. They had to – and they didn’t have cell phones, digital cameras, laptops or Facebook. Mom and Dad weren’t a phone call away. Letters took weeks to arrive and one party or the other could be dead from any number of diseases including smallpox, diphtheria, consumption (tuberculosis) or an Indian attack before the letter came.

Any number of things about the younger generations annoy the elderly no end, beginning with their music. They don’t go to the theaters because the Surround-Sound would render them permanently deaf and the new 3-D films won’t endear themselves to our seniors. Profanity is another biggie with the seniors. They just don’t think it’s “cute” when they find tiny little Caitlin, all of 2 years old, has learned the “fudge” word before she’s learned to say her bedtime prayers.

The kids are rude, disrespectful, undisciplined and unpleasant to be around. Some grandparents, desperate to be with their grand off-spring, will put up with just about any sort of behavior. Others head for the retirement community where the rules absolve them from overnight babysitting chores.

Many of the seniors agree with Shaffer: Facebook’s okay, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for real human contact. Some of them shun electronics altogether, knowing it’s a trap for the lazy. They’re not cranky; they’re just right but the younger generation is tuning them out.

Kids have been tuning out the older generation since the 1960s or even earlier. “Never trust anyone over 30.” The divide began with rock music and widened as the drug culture wrapped our society in a moral haze. If you can’t see where you’re going, you will eventually drive off the road.  Facebook is just the new way to rude, crued, and booed.

My friend moved to California in 1979 and didn’t return to this area until this past week. We reconnected on Facebook. She had a lot of stops to make and couldn’t stay long. Basically, we just had enough time to catch up and then she was off again. She was always that way. Sometimes, friends move away but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to drift completely apart, though your lives aren’t as closely intertwined as they were.

When we were both younger, while she was still living here, she cautioned me that she had three kids, many friends, and many more activities. If I could live with that, we’d be okay. As it happened, I enjoyed hearing about all her adventures and still do, so we’re still okay.

We left Westchester County when I was just a baby, and my mother left all her closest friends behind when we moved out to California. Finally, we moved back East to New Jersey, within fairly easy driving distance and a telephone call from those friends. One friend died, her sister has become too frail for visitors. Two newer friends moved away, one to Oregon, the other back to Holland. Mia and Mom corresponded for a quite a long time, but illness and age have come between them at last.

Facebook wouldn’t be my first choice for maintaining a relationship. But I’d rather do things electronically than not at all. A fiber optic cable always trumps a broken heart.


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