Older But Not Necessarily Wiser
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One of my sisters is 8 years younger than me. When she was about 7 she boldly stated that she never wanted to get “old like me”. Bear in mind I was a ripe old age of 15 at the time. To her, anyone over 8 and a half was old. However despite not wanting to be an ancient 15 year old, she often came to me when she needed things done like help with her homework, tidying the house or asking or when she needed to know things like “how we got here …..”
Like most of us, she saw anyone older than herself as knowledgeable and wise. The same thing can be said of anyone. No matter what generation we consider ourselves to be part of we often turn to people older than ourselves for wisdom and knowledge. I would like to suggest however that it works both ways and that sometimes younger people have more knowledge than they are given credit for
Why then, when they have less life experience should a younger person often be more insightful about life than someone with years of experience of what the world is all about?
Let’s have a look then at why each age group can pass on to others, older and younger, knowledge wisdom and sometimes good old common sense
The under 10s
This age group is, would you believe one of the cleverest ever to exist. Because of their brain and body development, they have the ability to learn all about how to master using their body perfectly, learn languages without having to study, understand the written word, write and develop the concept of reason for themselves. They grasp a basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong (although they often chose to do what wrong over what they know is right). They learn how to trust and when to be wary. They begin to understand emotions like loyalty, jealousy and a new sense of belonging. They begin to appreciate family and community. So is it possible that older generations overlook what can be learned from the under 10s? We can learn from them to think creatively and without self-limiting beliefs. They can show those older than themselves that having huge dreams is ok and the possibility of achieving them is in our own hands. Because of their innocence they can look at fellow human beings as friends. We can learn from them that people with different coloured skins are no different and that people with different cultures are simply human being like them. They can help us understand that life at its most basic is simple and that it is only when ego is introduced that things get complicated. Yes, there certainly is a lot that older people can learn from the under 10s
Possibly the least tolerated and dare I say it, least liked age group. But they have so much to teach others young and old. Unlike the under 10s the teen is starting to realise that he/she is an individual and has certain expectations of themselves and of others. They can teach us confidence as they learn to how to interact with others and get over life’s obstacles, physical and emotional, as others start to have more influence in their life. They can help others understand ambition and curiosity. The teen years are all about change. The body changes as well as the mind. Opinions are formed and chemical releases trigger swings in moods. So what does this tell the rest of us? Well it helps us understand that change is not always a bad thing. Often, especially when we get older, we don’t take kindly to change. We see it as something to avoid especially if it means that we need to step out of our comfort zone. But teens do it all the time. They probably experience their first kiss, their first love and how it can all go horribly wrong or delightfully right. They can teach us that giving up just because life is hard is not an option and that decisions made in life can have a huge effect on the future. Let’s not dismiss the teen as an inconvenience, rather as a transforming human looking to build a future for him/herself
The 20s and 30s
Many people at this stage in life are either in full steam ahead mode in career/life or settling into what they see as ‘not a child’ anymore but not ready to take full responsibility yet. It is often at this age that people see as a time for enjoying things they saw adults doing as a child and reaping the rewards of hard work. We can learn from this age group that life is for living. It is a time of adventure and often a time to put you first while considering others. Isn’t that something we can all learn to do? They can teach us that opportunities are made by ones self yet often they are not taken full advantage of. Most 20 or 30 something people will have a positive outlook on life which is certainly something that younger and older people can take on board.
40s and 50s
At this age we might be settled. Life is probably ok, even if not fantastic. There may have been broken relationships to contend with and possibly children to put before yourself. This is a stage often of “settling”. And yes we can learn that settling is not always a good thing. This is probably the time of life that people most often get stuck in the proverbial rut. We can learn that it is not always better to stay where you are, where life is comfortable and just ok, when all that it would take is some motivation to actually have the life you want. People who are in their 40s and 50s have usually done a lot and have heaps of experience, but we can learn that experience is no substitute for reality and action. Living the life we know is out there instead of thinking it is too late to achieve anything substantial is one of the most important lessons of life. Many young people look at people in their 40s and 50s as “passed it”. Nothing is further from the truth. In many cases it is only half way through life. Our lesson from this age group is to grasp life and not be afraid of change.
60 and over
Have you ever listened to people who are at this stage of life? I mean really listened? Have you heard what they have to say? The important thing to remember about this age of person is that they probably have nothing to gain from what they teach you. Often when we are younger we can manipulate what we tell people so that it advantages ourselves. But at this age many people purely and simply want to genuinely help others. They tend to be wiser and more reflective than many other generations and have experiences, both good and not so good that can help others be better people. Never dismiss the older person as someone with no relevant things to say in this modern world. Maybe they are right. Maybe it is better to talk to someone over a coffee face to face than to text them or e mail them. Maybe it is better to nurture others instead of bullying them into agreeing with your way of thinking
What about you?
If we believe that we can learn from other people, through their words, actions and wisdom then surely it is also true that others will learn from you. What are you teaching others by the way you live? What good and not so good actions are you imparting onto older and younger people who look at you as wiser and more learned? We are all learners of life but we must never forget that we are also all teachers too. What would it take to live your life as an example to others through your actions, words and knowledge?
Learn all you can from those younger and older than yourself and use their teaching wisely