Email Issues Affect Time Goes By

Generations: The Passing of the Baton

One of the biggest changes in old age is how we are treated by other, mostly younger, people. We are ignored, dismissed and made invisible based solely on our appearance.

Put the same words, thoughts and opinions we have in a younger body and the world pays attention.

It is hard to accept, this disregard, and for good reason. It is not a fairy tale that after decades of education, experience, study, learning from our mistakes and successes that we have gained not only a great deal of knowledge, but judgment too, something that only age can bestow.

”When I was a boy of 14,” wrote Mark Twain, “my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

I have been fond of that quotation for as long as I can remember. It must have been in high school that I first encountered it, a period when grownups (my grownups, anyway) paid little attention to what I said.

So I took heart not so much that in time they would learn as that in the long run, I would become old enough to have my opinions respected.

There is a period in each person's life – those mid-years – when that is true. The generation into which we are born becomes, in the natural course of things, the one that runs the world.

Recall what an important symbol of “arrival” it was for baby boomers when Bill Clinton, the “first boomer president,” was elected. With some help from the previous generation still holding a good deal of power and the next one starting to come up behind, boomers held the reins of control and leadership.

They were the politicians, corporate executives, artists, writers, actors, musicians of the day. That time comes to every generation and when it does, it feels like it will always be so.

Until you look around one day and there's someone your son's or daughter's age in the White House; that latest entrepreneurial billionaire went to school with your grandkid; and there's not a single pop musician you know anything about.

And here's the worst part: not one of them cares what you and I think. It's painful and certainly all our life-long, hard-won knowledge should have some use some application for the issues of the present and future. Shouldn't it?

It would please me if that were true but I am regularly disabused of the idea when my contemporaries insist on clinging to old ideas that have passed their use-by dates.

Take gay marriage. Pretty much everyone is astonished at how quickly support for it has grown for such a dramatic social change and if the Supreme Court decides the current case as is being predicted, opposition will be all over but for the shouting.

It is young people who have led the way as shown by a new ABC News/Washington Post poll [pdf] released last week. Take a look at the age breadown in the chart:

Age Group % Support
18-29 78%
30-64 60%
65+ 46%

The world is changing, as it always has, as it always must and elders are dragging their feet.

The gap between young and old is even greater for legalization of marijuana. Take a look at this April 2015 Pew survey:

Age Group % Support
18-34 68%
35-50 52%
51-69 50%
70-87 29%

Legalization of marijuana is as inevitable as marriage equality but you wouldn't know that from elder opinion.

By clinging to old ideas when it is evident the time has come to move forward, we earn the enmity and disregard of the younger generations now in charge. And they are right to feel that way.

Or are they?

Could it be that sometimes it is the job (or should be) of elders to put the brakes on moving forward too quickly? To keep cocksure youth from rushing headlong into a future that has not been thought through well enough yet?

I'm not saying this argument is necessarily sound, particularly in these two cases, but neither is it unreasonable.


One of the reasons I enjoy having a friends of all ages is that I develop a broader outlook on life in general. Keeping an open mind, for me, leads to a more enjoyable life, full of curiosity of what is to come. I am 71.

"To keep cocksure youth from rushing headlong into a future that has not been thought through well enough yet?" Maybe be, maybe not. Maybe the young are helping people in our generation to trust the science that backs up the social changes that you mentioned at the end.

But who started those movements toward equal rights for Gays and to legalize Marijuana? it was in the early 1970's that my college roommate produced the first Gay rights conference at my small liberal arts college, NORML http://norml.org/ has been around since then too.

We are products of the times we grew up in. Over time, and with some education, some of those morays soften or disappear altogether. However, many of them never go away. Especially if they have to do with religion, sex or family values. Even when it comes to sports, we tend to root for the team we rooted for as kids even if we move to another town.
Most of us grew up in a time when mom was mom and dad was a man.Guys who hung out a lot together were just "good buddies". Women who kissed other women were just "very affectionate". I never heard of a transsexual or transvestite until I was a teenager. To this day I look at these people as curiosities. But it's 2015. The world has changed. It's OK to be happy. And if same sex marriage or sex change operations makes somebody happy without hurting others, I'm all for it.

They care when they want my vote or my money. That's for sure!

"By clinging to old ideas when it is evident the time has come to move forward, we earn the enmity and disregard of the younger generations now in charge." This statement surprises me from you, Ronni. For one, is fear of earning someone's enmity a legitimate reason to give up an old idea? For another, I'm not sure we can ever say with certainty that an old idea has no value—sometimes all our new thinking and fresh discoveries lead us right back to the wisdom our grandparents tried to teach us when we were young.

There is a lot more to the antidrug crusade. Many years ago immorality was in the forefront. But behind it all was the idealisitic impression we'd all become addicts. But the numbers of Americans who were convicted and incarcerated grew by alarming numbers. There simply wasn't enough room (cells) to house them all.
Many dollars spent, many more jobs created in the 'industry' and now - "let's finally end it!"
The same-sex marriage issue was presented in a similar way - "it is immoral", they said.
More likely it is more about money and political posturing.
Now there about three dozen states that recognize same-sex marriages. Some politicians who say a federal ruling would then impinge on states' rights. "No such thing as a federal marriage certificate."
What is a couple to do when, if legally married in one state, move to one where the marriage is null and void? Lose their health insurance? Pay higher taxes? Lose their inheritance?
Nope. It's all about money . . .

"To keep cocksure youth from rushing headlong into a future that has not been thought through well enough yet?"

As long as we are moving forward I think it is okay that we do so at a rate that's not much faster than the slowest person. Some will get pushy and try to speed it up while others are trying to prevent the future from advancing at all.

No faster than the slowest person should be a good equalizer - overall.

I must disagree, Larry. If we waited for the slowest person, there would still be slavery and women still wouldn't be able to vote, etc. etc. etc. and so on.

Old people sometimes—far too often I believe—voice opinions on an issue based solely on long-held prejudice and resistance to change (or, worse still, on second-hand opinions from the mass media).

A wise elder, on the other hand, will speak only after having done some thinking and research and after having listened to all the arguments. Before giving an opinion, he or she will consider every aspect of the issue, placing it in the largest possible historical and sociological context and looking at all the potential ramifications.

I call this the difference between 'small picture thinking' and 'big picture thinking.' And I believe big picture thinking is what distinguishes a true elder from someone who is merely old. I also believe that true elders do, in fact, get listened to by people of all ages.

For a number of years I have thought it was time to modernize some drug laws, and to legalize gay marriage. I don't think people's attitudes about these things have much to do with money, but more about deeply held beliefs and prejudices.

I think this is also the case with the idea of same sex marriage. It's time has come, but many elders have trouble discarding their old beliefs.

I suppose the slowness of older citizens to change attitudes provides some small check against sudden cultural change.

I'm for same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana, and I'm 75. But as one of my younger friends tells me, "You always were an outlier."

(I have tasteful pink streaks in my hair too. My hairdresser calls it "happy hair.")

I'm much more concerned with the "old white men", commonly referred to as congress and organizational executives who hold all the power in this country... We need young minds and hearts to rush a little. The OWM (with our silent collusion or apathy) have brought the planet to the brink of disaster.
Really? Same sex marriage is a basic right or should be. And there are many more dangerous drugs out there than marijuana - many are in our medicine cabinets as prescriptions. Read Bad Pharma if you want a good understanding of just how dangerous these drugs are. Good discussion Ronni!

I am not digging on recreational marijuana in Washington and soon Oregon state, we live on the border of Oregon, we live right by a high school the kids doped up on meth and cocaine with marijuana the gateway drug of choice, no I am not..I lived in California southern central and northern California and I did not partake and worked like crazy to go to college and live, I was not gonna do the mj stuff, I thought it ridiculous to spend money on drugs of anykind while I worked my butt off to merely live..My grandmother who was nearing her middle 90's would have beaten me with her cane yes she would she said boyfriends would come and go &girlfriends would come and go and no one could take my college education from me, she was right on that opinion. My hubs of nearly 41 years never toked anything cigarettes, we do like some wine now and then once in 17 years like, but dope and alcohol what a big waste of you know what one's resources, drinking and driving and raising hell is not in our mind set..My father in law late drank himself to death and never supported his 8 kids and his wife what a waste of a life and smoking his whole damn life, no thank you!!!!!!!!

My late mother in law smoked right up to the time she died..She never had a decent home, but she had her cigarettes and coffee and lots of shitty foods to dine on..She complained all the time and never had her husband and father of her 8 kids..what a waste of a life, she had a great social security income her grown sons latched on too! We tried to get her to stop smoking was not to ever happen her way or the highway, lived to nearly 87!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As someone bringing up the rear end of the boomers and still working, the day came when I realized that I have been working longer than some of my coworkers have been alive. It took some time to adjust to this reality. Now I view myself as a mentor and can revel in their successes. And they teach me of a new world that I am less familiar with. We continue to work through our differences and still provide quality services to our clientele.

There are irrelevant young people and relevant old people, and the reverse is also true. Always have been, always will be. The minute someone treats me like I'm deaf or demented, I smile and leave. At this point, life really IS too short to suffer fools.

Ronni, I love it when you pose such ethical conundrums. I recommend that we all re-read what Marian Van Eyk McCain wrote (at 8:12). Oh, that we could all be so wise! Thanks, Marian.

I agree with Tim.. Marian comments are worth re-reading. She is a " true elder".

I have never read her descriptions before. From this moment on, I am work hard to become a "true elder".

Six out of nine of the court justices are catholic. Since they just threw out the birth control mandate for companies that object on religious grounds, I will be very surprised if they give the ok to gay marriage. All six of them should do the decent thing and recuse themselves. Like that would ever happen!

I also am in tune with Marian comments, and Susan's.

I feel rather sorry for the younger generations who are probably going to be facing huge challenges, possibly including basic needs, that our and our parents' generation brought about. We let the political, military, corporate and industrial entities run roughshod over this earth (I'm speaking very generally).

Giving some thought to this, though not much, I feel capable of handling what's on my plate, in the now and let the youngsters figure out what will work for them. It's life's tricksters that don't allow us to see what's around the corner.

We elders one another's best allies, and this blog shows how much good we can do by helping/informing each other to thrive in these years.

The kids? They'll be all right.

When I was a child most parents wanted to keep us ignorant of what they thought to be the "seamier side of life." I knew almost nothing about sex and didn't even know there were such things as a homosexual, transsexual or transgender. I was 18 years old before my Dad's third wife told me about homosexuality. Of course her information was bigoted, incorrect and offensive. She called homosecuals 'queers.'

From that information I am now educated and realize that she was wrong on every level and I think my only prejudice is toward the prejudiced.

How did my attitude change? It was learning from the young people. The youth have always been leaders in change and the elders have always been the ones to cling to their prejudices and attitudes. (There are exceptions, of course.)

It is the idealistic young people who lead the way. It is the stodgy elders who try to hold them back. If the youth are anxious for immediate change, I applaud them. Slow and steady never won a race.

I also agree that Marian's wise words are worth re-visiting.

Personally, I think the problem with a lot of Elders is that they are afraid to let go of old concepts and prejudices they have held all their lives as they just don't want to ever admit they just might have been wrong !!!

If they would just look at it from a little different slant, they would realize that they weren't necessarily "wrong", they just held with the prevailing things they had been taught.

I also believe that everyone of any age should hold an open mind and be willing to listen to other ideas ... and admit that some of those other ideas might hold some rational reasons for their stance.

Why not? All they have to lose is their fear of being wrong!

The only belief I learned as a kid that I will always refuse to lose is my firm belief in the Golden Rule. Otherwise, I'm willing to listen to darn near anything!

What Diane said.


Based on statistics as reported, I think TGB readers as a group may be a little ahead of our cohort on social issues such as gay marriage and legalization of MJ. Personally, whether someone else can marry the person s/he loves is totally none of my business so I've never opposed gay marriage. Love is a positive thing regardless of gender identity.

Legalizing a drug isn't the same thing as endorsing it for widespread usage with no regulation. Since my career was in the field of alcohol/drug rehab, it took me a while to arrive at that conclusion; however, I have. I no longer believe that MJ is necessarily a "gateway" drug--more often, that's still good old alcohol. MJ is certainly not the scourge depicted in "Reefer Madness", a now-comical film that attempted to define it for our generation.

I agree with Miki D. and others--it's all about keeping an open mind.

I think the problem is that "Old age" in our society no longer brings us respect as it would do if we lived in some remote tribe.
The situation has changed since we were young, when it was a case of the older you were, the more respect you could expect.
Only those elderly people who have gained some public respect during their younger lives are given any respect or attention in our media.
"We are ignored, dismissed and made invisible based solely on our appearance." This quote would have applied to me when younger regardless of my appearance. Maybe I have simply got used to this treatment, but I think over the years I have come to demand more respect or to stay away from those who can't give it.

there is a certain sense in which almost all of us are conservative--even as virulent a liberal as i am--and that is the harkening back to conditions in place when we were feeling the most alive and vibrant. if you smoked pot back in the 60s and 70s, if you knew gays then and were accepting of them, then you are fine with the changes now, as those things become more the norm. if you fought against those things then (the squares) you'll be much more resistant to them now when such prejudices have become ossified in you. and marijuana and gays were not especially mainstream 50 years ago...

Your post has many points to ponder on. I appreciate that you are bringing these subjects into our generational attitudes. -- barbara

My youth was totally, boringly, mainstream. I never smoked pot in the 60s and 70s (or cigarettes, for that matter), and while statistically speaking I almost certainly did know some gays back then, I didn't know I did, because where I grew up people didn't talk about that.

But, you know... what's the use of living a life if you don't learn anything?

It works both ways. Remember back in the sixties when we said, "Don't trust anyone over 30." I'm less likely to trust anyone under 30 today. I've always been open to new ideas and I'm extremely liberal. But was that my generation or genetics? I noticed young people starting to ignore me years ago, but maybe that's natural. I find I relate best to people born in 1951, the year I was born. I try to understand everyone, and I'm pretty good at it, but don't we really resonate with people we share the most common experiences? Don't we feel a natural affinity to folks that like the same pop culture?

I don't expect young people to consider me relevant. If they want to talk and make a connection I enjoy seeing into their world, but I'm not bothered to be ignored either. I figure young people are very busy being young.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)