Age segregation limits learning opportunities

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Illustration by Aaron Osborn

When we think of segregation in America, the first thing that probably comes to mind is race. America has a long history of racial segregation and it’s still prevalent today. However, there’s a new kind of segregation taking over society, and most of us might not have noticed.

Many of us practice a lifestyle that functions around age segregation simply because we sort ourselves according to our own age.

Senior citizens find themselves at nursing homes surrounded by people of their generation. Grown-ups enjoy the company of people their age during and after work hours without having to worry about their younger children. These children luckily don’t mind staying at home where there’s free Wi-Fi that allows them to talk to friends on social media. We even put toddlers together in day care centers.

In previous eras this was not the case. Young children spent their after-school hours around their parents or grandparents helping around the house, business or farm.

In today’s society, it’s easy to see why people want to stick to their age group. Adolescents communicate with their friends using slang and emojis—something their parents or grandparents can’t comprehend. College students want to party and get loud with each other without encountering lectures from their parents or noise complaints from older people. Adults want to gossip, drink and travel together. Senior citizens want peace and quiet.

Let’s face it: Age segregation is a big part of America now, even more so than racial segregation. The problem is that many of us are not thinking about the consequences. Surrounding ourselves only by people of our age group means that everyone loses out.

Young children lose out on the wise and valuable life lessons they can learn from their elders. Seniors are deprived of the energy and spirit of adolescents. We begin to see the world only through the eyes and minds of people our age, and we lose out on the rest of the view we could see from the perspectives of the young or the aged.

It may not seem like it, but this can cause serious harm to society. When our youth is in need, it’s important they seek help from their elders instead of only turning to people their own age.

When it comes to the future of our young generation involving things such as the environment, health or education, are senior citizens going to care?

Are we going let the youth fight for their future, even when they are too young to vote or make decisions on their own?

Seniors are less likely to care about referendums dealing with school, health or programs for kids, especially if they have no regular contact with young people.

When looking at it from the opposite side, if a young child is raised without the company of older people, they will be less likely to care about the needs of the elderly. With technology continuously expanding, we want the youth to care enough to come up with inventions that will help the elderly, whether it revolves around finding new cures or making their lives easier.

We can all learn from each other. Elders need love and energy from young children just as much as young people need guidance and care from the aged.

Why is it that we continue to separate ourselves by age when there is no harm in integrating with the old or the young?

2 COMMENTS

  1. Randee Jo, You have addressed this issue eloquently. As a Pacific Islander, we cherish, respect, and show reverence to our elders. This is what makes us so unique. I think we are an exemplary model for others should emulate. We do not believe in sending our elders to a convalescent home. We embrace their wisdom, continue to learn for them and care for them in our homes. Great article. We are so proud of you.

  2. I left the states over 26 years ago and reside on the island of Rota. What captivated me was how elders were treated. It is unconscionable in the culture to send your elder anywhere. Family’s would continue to embrace their sick and healthy elders without hesitation. Pacific Islanders have a profound understanding of the importance of retaining connections with our elders. Their wisdom is invaluable. I think people in the states should look at what is being done as it is an exemplary model of the importance of our elders.

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