Appreciating the old in a new way

In my childhood, I was incredibly fortunate to spend years living with both my grandparents and great-grandparents. All in one house. My family could have been a movie; a family resembling the one in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” minus cabbage soup every night, a shared bed and the eccentric Willy Wonka. After living, volunteering and working among the old folk, I have come to love the hard of hearing, occasionally slow conversationalists and sluggish drivers that perhaps should not be on the road.

Due to their social skills and distance from technology, taking pleasure in the small things and eagerness to share their years of experience with others, people should embrace the personality folded within the wrinkles of senior citizens.

While our older generation may struggle to adapt to the quickly evolving technology of our time, I admire their ability to get to the point and carry a great amount of mindfulness of where they are in the moment. The current older generation attained advance age without the technology that binds the current generation, which impacts their daily routine and relationships with other people. They have a greater awareness for the moment, and it shines through their social interactions and people skills. While it’s painful to watch my grandmother try to operate a digital camera or cellular phone, she excels at conversation. Many years spent communicating with people in person enables them to communicate more effectively by getting to the point sooner and explaining what they mean fully. They’re more aware of space than we are: While their weakened sight may cause them not to see a car coming down the road, you will not see them step in front of a vehicle because their face is buried in their phone.

In their retirement, they have little to no obligations and the things they choose to do are incredibly simplistic, yet they are able to get much enjoyment and find contentment from these pleasures. A walk through the park and soaking in their environment is enough to make them content. A good meal, snack or time spent with family are held in high esteem after years of learning to appreciate moments that younger people may not. Pulling out a deck of cards, sharing a snack or giving a passing “hello” is absorbed in its entirety rather than brushed off. Splitting a Little Debbie cake with my great grandmother after school was a daily ritual that she treasured as she sat in her rocker, sharing stories about her past and asking about my day. While a mere gesture, being able to make her smile in such a simple way was one of the most treasured memories.

They also have years of stories to tell and words of wisdom that can be shared through a simple conversation. Talking about my great grandfather’s experiences serving in WWII gave me insights to his frame of mind and provided the perspective of a war veteran. While volunteering in a retirement home, I was incredibly amused by the way an Air Force vet described the sensation of flying an airplane and touched by the feeling in his voice about wishing he could have that experience again. While no one remembers every detail, the knowledge and experience of someone with a lifetime of memories behind them is refreshing to sit down and indulge in.

A generation that grew up with little technology is one that is fading out, and will only be around for a few more years. Spending as little as an hour with people from past generations can be a humbling reprieve from our fast paced lives.

Their houses are decorated by their past and contain a personal look into the life they experienced. Our Facebook accounts are littered with pictures of moments we have shared with others, but how varied will our skill sets be years from now? As those who wrote beautiful letters in cursive writing, cooked meals nearly every night rather than grabbing take-out and used a phone attached to their wall fades from our midst, will a culture slip through the fingers of youth and negligence? As we celebrate the arrival of complexity and advancement, we must refuse to resign the details of a colorful past. Take a walk with your grandparent and savor the simplicity of the wind blowing on your face in the undiluted reality of consciousness without the constant buzz of a phone in your pocket.