Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 244  Talking Across Generations

"Del, this is Patrick. We just listened to 30 of your podcasts as we drove from Bellingham to Portland. They are really good".  There was enthusiasm in his voice. Patrick is 25, a college grad and on his way to a new job. He called me last weekend to tell me how much he was enjoying these podcasts. He went on, "We never get a chance to listen to our elders talk about things that really matter".

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

Besides appreciating his enthusiasm for this program his call got me thinking about the communicating we do with the younger folks in our life. Sometimes our conversations with them are very brief to nonexistent. I think about time spent with kids when there is no conversation. We sit and watch "the game" together.

We talk about the weather or "how are you doing today", but we rarely venture far from polite exchanges.

Perhaps we need to create some place or someway of discussing topics of a more varied nature. Our barista mentioned the podcast on "waffling" which had special meaning to him as he was trying to decide weather or not to move to a new city and take a new job. I guess the topic was timely. He decided to leap. He took the risk.

"Today we put our older people into nursing homes', he said. "You know it use to be people lived in tribes and had elders around all the days of their life. They could talk to people who had lots of experience at all sort of things. They had already been there."

We lead very sheltered lives - all of us. We know how our house operates. We know how our kids were raised. It is a delusion to think that all homes operate the same way. I recall talking to librarian one time about the joy of settling in with our kids on our lap and reading bedtime stories all the days of their childhood. The librarian smiled and followed up with, "Your kids don't know how lucky they were. Most homes, and I mean most homes, have no books in them". she went on. "There are no bedtime stories. There are no books."

I just assumed everyone read to their kids when it was bedtime. I know our kids do today. Well, the older grandkids read to themselves now. But I was certainly wrong about how other homes operated.

Then there was the conversation. We never had a TV in the house when we were raising our children. We talked. Dinner was always at a candle lit, round table in the dark. There were no programs starting soon to get up for. Our dinners were long. We talked about everything and anything. We lived our lives in front of each other. Our values, our weaknesses and strengths were on the table.  I like think the darkness and roundness held us together.

This isn't the kind of life many kids grow up with today. True conversation between parents and kids or any adult and kids can go missing.

We retired folks have a perfect opportunity to talk to younger people. We have had a life time of  experiences and education. We have been down many road: made good choices and bad. We just need to learn how to tell a good story - with a point. And then shut up and listen. That might be the hardest part.

We need a place where we can meet. Sort of a generational mixing hall. We could volunteer through some agency like big brother or big sister. We could probably find others like the YMCA or YWCA. I'm sure a phone call would give us a good idea of what is possible.

I'm sure a web site could be created and perhaps it already exists. Then again that just doesn't seem right. Part of relating to one another is being able to read each others body language. Being able to see the reaction of the other person. Perhaps my barista friend liked my podcasts because he knew me and could relate.

It's the connections we seem to be lacking. We are connected electronically but in every other way we seem to be isolated. Isolated physically, emotionally and rationally. We all listen to our own play lists. Watch our own movies. Create our own news casts or listen to radio stations that play to our own political inclinations.

This problem seems to encompass all generations. Older people feel isolated. Families in suburbs feel isolated. Young people feel isolated. It's a problem.

Maybe there is room here for another podcast entitled "Young People Talk to Older People." It could be a sort of chat room. Here is a project for some retired person.

It might be best to just take the extra step and personally reach out to other generations. It might lead to a real conversation. One where each talk and each listen. It can't be that hard.

This is Retirement Talk.

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