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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Opinion

National Grandparents Day: Bridging generational gaps


Closeup of senior woman's hands

Courtesy of Bigstock

This month, National Grandparents Day came and went quietly. It is a relatively unknown holiday with the purpose of encouraging people to reach out to not just their own grandparents, but also other older adults who may be isolated or in nursing homes, and they may not have contact with their family.

This holiday is all the more important for the millennial generation, which includes most current college students, who may not spend much time with their grandparents.

Mechanical engineering freshman Allen Brown said he sees his grandparents about once every three months and does not often have the opportunity to show his appreciation for them in his life.

“You always have that appreciation, but … it’s just something you really don’t think about too much,” Brown said.

Troublingly, a survey by Bayshore HealthCare found that many millennials show signs of intolerance and impatience toward seniors, with one out of seven Canadians aged 18 to 34 saying they will honk at a senior driving too slowly and only 34 percent saying that they would go out of their way to help a senior in need. The survey also found that 69 percent believe it is their responsibility to care for elderly parents and grandparents.

The general attitude and lack of respect for older adults may be an unfortunate result of individualism in America, but engineering freshman Iman Khaerisman said he thinks that Grandparents Day is a step in the right direction toward respecting elders more in America.

“In American culture specifically, there’s this idea that ‘I’m old enough, and so I want to do my own thing, and my parents — if they’re older — are holding me back. They’ve already had their time. It’s time for me to shine,’ ” Khaerisman said.

“I come from a culture where it’s completely reversed, and the older that you are, the more respect that you should be awarded and the more help that you should be entitled to. Grandparents Day may be kind recognizing them for a little bit for the work that they’ve done.”

Pre-pharmacy sophomore Kim Ta, who is Vietnamese, said she thinks it is sad the way that older adults are treated in America, especially the fact that so many are put into nursing homes by their families.

“In my culture, we don’t ever put our parents or our grandparents in a nursing home,” Ta said. “My grandma lived with me as a kid, and she helped raise me, so to me that’s kind of strange. It’s kind of good that this holiday’s around, so if they are isolated like that then they can see their family more often.”

In addition to the alleviating this loneliness and isolation, spending time with grandparents and older adults fosters shared experiences between the generations that benefit all involved. Khaerisman said that by talking to their grandparents, young people can learn from their elder’s knowledge and experiences.

“I come from a culture where it’s completely reversed, and the older that you are, the more respect that you should be awarded and the more help that you should be entitled to. Grandparents Day may be kind recognizing them for a little bit for the work that they’ve done.”

-Engineering freshman Iman Khaerisman, on how different cultures treat their elders.

“A lot of the stuff that we study — specifically history, but (also) a lot of the other subjects — has a lot of relevancy to the older generation because they lived through certain points,” Khaerisman said. “The knowledge that they have is historic and is valuable.”

This is something that I only just recently came to fully understand. Over the Labor Day holiday, I sat down and talked with my grandmother and was amazed at how much I learned in just those few hours.

Her generation and those before have experienced and lived through things that we have only read about in history books. She shared her life stories and wisdom with me, and I shared my own insights with her.

Connecting with older adults can lead to not just an exchange of different perspectives and values, but also a discovery of commonalities that transcend generational gaps.

There are several organizations with that goal. Caring Across Generations and Generations United, which has a yearly Do Something Grand campaign coinciding with Grandparents Day, help to raise awareness for the holiday as well as promote elder-care initiatives and provide activities and opportunities for generations to connect with each other year-round.

Fortunately, there are signs of improvement, and the children of millennials are having very different experiences from their parents as aging baby boomers change the face of grandparenthood. A survey by TODAY.com found that 54 percent of parents say their parents spend more time with their grandchildren than their own grandparents spent with them as a child.

Hopefully this is a indication of changing ideals in America. People who respect and appreciate their grandparents and older adults should involve them in their lives not just one day, but yearlong.

Opinion columnist Eileen Holley is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected] 

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