If you belong to the “younger” generation, at some point, you’ve probably thought how irritating and grouchy old people can be at times. Not to say that all of them are annoying all the time, but sometimes, you can’t help but feel that the oldies exhibit typical “old people” behavior – they grumble a lot, say mean things, try to order those around them, give unsolicited, “useless” advice, etc.
I consider myself part of the “younger” generation, and I certainly have felt that way on a couple of occasions. In fact, quite recently, we had a family get-together. And this dear uncle of mine would constantly keep asking people to do something or the other, and he would sulk when us children wouldn’t listen to him.
This was typical “old people” behavior that I referred to earlier, and it seems far too common to be attributed to some individual characteristic of one particular person. And it got me thinking: Why do the oldies seem to behave this way in general? There must be some reason or explanation behind it.
Which brings me to my revelation of the day:
The old people behave the way they do, because they, once, were young too.
Feel free to quote and share the above, with due credit, if you don’t mind. 😉
I think you’ll agree with me when I say that it’s a young person’s world. As a young person, ideally, you are financially independent, in the best physical condition of your life, have good emotional support in family and friends, and most importantly, you are on track to be able to do something with your life. You make decisions. You are in charge of your life. You just have so many opportunities to do things, to affect change in the world around you. Most of what you see in the world is targeted at you, be it movies, music, merchandise, whatever – it’s as if you are being “celebrated” by the world.
But as you get old, things begin to change. Your health starts deteriorating to some extent. You are no longer as financially independent as you were earlier. You’ve probably known loss. You don’t have as many options as you did earlier. This being a young person’s world, you are not the central character on the world’s stage anymore.
Based on what I’ve observed in those around me, that, I think, is the root of it all. As we age, we have difficulty giving up the life that we had, the role that we played on this stage. We try hard to cling on to whatever little things we can. After a lifetime spent sculpting our surroundings, we don’t want to give up that control. We still crave that “power” to direct things, more so because we feel that power slowly slipping away.
The uncle that I talked about earlier, he was a man of the world. He took pride in his achievements, liked being a good host, being the center of attraction and all. He was the man of the house. But now, he was sidelined to some extent. The responsibilities had gradually shifted to his children, who were now making all the decisions. He loves his children without a doubt, but there’s still a part of him that misses that role he played earlier.
I think this “annoyance” that old people seemingly cause to the younger generation is just another manifestation of the generation gap. So, is there something that we can do to reduce the friction?
Well, if you are one of the oldies and can relate to what I’ve been talking about, one thing you could do is to realize that everything and everyone has their time. Not to say that you should just give up and do nothing, but perhaps make a little bit of an effort to relax more (no pun intended) and leave things to the kids. You have to believe that you’ve raised your kids well enough that they can handle whatever life throws at them. You should give them the chance to prove themselves, and forgive them as well, if they don’t live up to your standards. It’s their time and they should have the freedom to live it the way they want, making their own mistakes, and learning from those.
And if you belong to new generation, what you can do is to understand why the old guys act the way they do. We all know that old habits die hard, and these guys have a lifetime of those behind them. It’s a path that we’ll probably walk down too at one point. All they want is to stay relevant. So, we should try and do what we can to involve them in our plans and decisions, to make them feel wanted and valued.
Ageing and growing old are not the same thing. While “ageing” happens to all of us, “growing old” is a much more beautiful and abstract concept, and deserves to be handled gracefully, whether for ourselves or for those around us.