Throughout my entire life, I have been fortunate enough to have been influenced and guided by older adults. As a young section 8 housing kid juxtaposed amongst kids from a higher socioeconomic class at a Roman Catholic private school, I found comfort in older adults who guided and consoled me during times when I felt alone. If it weren’t for my grandfather, grandmother, my mothers’ friends, and my school’s religious brothers, I would not be the person I am today. To many people, older adults can be perceived as “uncool” or stereotyped because of their age, however, I have always viewed them differently: as vessels of knowledge.
Older adults, specifically those in the Baby Boomer generation, have been through so many experiences throughout their lives. Some of these experiences younger generations will conquer in our own lives, while others are ones that we will never to see. For this reason, I’ve always viewed older adults as vessels of knowledge, being able to give insight into both the experiences that we will get to share with them and for the ones we only get to see on TV.
Between the years of 1946 to 1964, the United States saw a spike in the birth rate, resulting in the nation’s second largest generational cohort: Baby Boomers. The American economy flourished in the aftermath of World War II, and improved technology made it easier to share ideas and culture. However, this period was also marked by great unrest in a world characterized by war, injustice, disparities, and extreme racism. This era marked the start of the Vietnam War, and many Baby Boomers were later drafted to give up their lives for a war where meaning seemed lost. Baby Boomers also witnessed Rosa Parks being arrested for refusing to sit in the back of a bus. In response to these events, many Baby Boomers protested and rallied for change, rather than hiding in fear. They marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington, D.C. in 1963 and saw the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Reflecting on some of these influential events that have shaped the Baby Boomers as they were growing up, I realized that this generation shaped society during the 20th century, which in turn, have shaped many generations to follow. Without the Boomers, many of us would not have the lives we live today.
Older adults were once young. They went through the different stages of life that everyone will eventually go through. The only difference between older adults and younger generations is age — and with age comes so many different experiences. Some of these experiences are ones that we are currently going through, and yet many of us may overlook older adults for support and guidance when they are sometimes the best source of information. When my grandfather and great uncle passed away, I felt like I lost some of the only friends who gave meaning to this world. Their passing meant I could no longer talk to them about my experiences or theirs. If you’re reading this, I hope that you honor your grandfather, grandmother, and the many older adults in your life.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.