(The following entry features the insights of students in the Language Arts and Humanities Class at Briar Glen School in Glen Ellyn, IL. My thanks to these thoughtful youngsters for their wisdom about oldsters!)
I recently had the opportunity to talk with a small group of fifth graders about the benefits that come to youngsters and oldsters when they interact with each other. The children’s observations follow here, offering us all a measure of hope for the world we share with children.
The idea of “mutual benefit” was strong for these students “Oldsters and youngsters should stick together for all they can learn from each other,” wrote one fifth grader. That theme appeared in a number of related thoughts: “Older adults have different hobbies that youngsters might enjoy, but did not know about.” “Young people can remind older people about their past.” “Oldsters have wisdom to give.” One student wondered what would happen if there were no elderly people: Youngsters would not have these special teachers to learn from.
Underlying many of their comments was the understanding that children and older adults complement each other. “Oldsters help youngsters listen.” “Really old oldsters might need help with technology from youngsters.” “Youngsters know of new ideas in the world.” “Oldsters might not know as much about the community today as youngsters.” “Oldsters have more limits with physical activity” suggested a caring action, “Youngsters can speak louder so that oldsters can hear them.” “Old people can give creativity to young people” paired with “Youngsters think creatively and make up ideas.” “Youngsters can help oldsters from living in the past” compared with “Youngsters can know more about the future.”
The value of life experiences was not lost on these pre-teens: “Youngsters don’t have as much experience as oldsters,” observed one student. Others wrote, “Oldsters have a lot of knowledge that youngsters may never know.” “Oldsters have more knowledge from experiences that youngsters could benefit from.” “The oldsters teach me to be proper and polite.” The value of experience? “Oldsters can give you knowledge.”
One theme deserves special mention: The value of older adults in helping youngsters avoid possible mistakes. “Oldsters can stop youngsters from repeating the past,” remarked one child, because “oldsters experienced history and the past’s mistakes.” “Oldsters can prevent bad situations from developing because of their previous knowledge.”
These children understood how these two age cohorts bring satisfaction and joy to each other: “Old people can entertain young people.” “Oldsters can make us laugh.” “Youngsters can create a positive attitude.” “Youngsters give oldsters joy!” Projecting that kind of joy into his own elderhood, one fifth grader wrote, “When I become older, I hope youngsters would tell me their creative stories.”
Finally, one student reminded us all that, old or young, we are more similar than we are different. That oldsters may still carry a bit of youngster in their spirits, and that young children can possess the wisdom of older people. She wrote, “Oldsters can act young, and the other way around, too!”
A good reminder that can cap any conversation between generations!