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Feb-22-2013 19:57printcomments

Examining the Generation Gap: Differences Needn't Create Conflict

"Diversity should never to taken for perversity--it isn't."

Generation gap

(SALEM) - As a longtime gerontologist, I've worked hard to try to narrow the Generation Gap that often creates unneeded conflict between Youth and Elders. When it comes to family members, the diversity is a bit different. We were recently given that revelation when we visited a nephew in the Southwest.

That nephew shall remain nameless but all of the info imparted is accurate.

We are older people celebrating our 70's. By contrast, that nephew and his charming girlfriend are in the 30's bracket. They are in the explorative stage and testing out the world. He is a bonafide businessperson and his lifestyle feeds on eating out frequently and abundant travel. Our world is somewhat more frugal, existing on a monthly SS check mainly and cooking in as a rule. We go out occasionally for special occasions.

Our nephew was very hospitable and gladly did the driving. We contributed toward gas money so as not to feel like being parasites. His choice of restaurants was largely upscale by our standards but we were quite loathe to complain. We went along for the ride and generally ordered the less expensive items.

Because both my wife and myself are on the cholesterol alert, we skipped over meats and rich creamy dishes. Who needs to court complications when your lifespan may well end within the current decade? We require that extra screening for food intake. It's no longer worth a health gamble. We made that clear to the younger couple and they respected our tighter regimen. It was reality: "lead us not into temptation..."

We thus discovered that diverse lifestyles need not be competitive ones. Mutual respect was the keystone. The simple fact is that we are at different phases of our lifespans and that calls for significant variations in what degree of discipline we must practice. Once again, it's never one template to fit all.

Lessons in life are ongoing. As we learn new nuances, the foundation for tolerance expands. Being older is nor a license for feeling "superior" based on years alone. Young folks also need to be duly validated and not scolded for being different.

As I keep telling the world, "Diversity should never to taken for perversity--it isn't."


NOTE: Lee and his wife Carmela often take off during the winters for several weeks in warmer climes. They find it educational, not simlpy recreational, to broaden their exposure to the US and abroad; so far, S. Dakota is the solitary state they have yet to visit.

B. Lee Coyne, a NYC native, blends three careers: Journalist, Counselor, Educator. His writings have appeared in newspapers and magazines on the East and West Coasts and the Southwest. He loves the art of the interview and has covered such persons as Dr. King's 1963 "Dream" speech and Sen. William

Proxmire as an advocate for the environment. A global traveller to some 30 countries aboard, he speaks Spanish semi-fluently and very rudimentary Russian, Tagalog, German, Arabic and Hebrew.

Lee's legacy here in Salem includes launching the Salem Peace Mosaic at the YMCA and doing a radio talk show for KMUZ/88.5 FM. It airs Mondays and highlights lives of proactive, productive senior citizens. He invites you to contact him at:



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