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Oct-30-2013 12:15printcomments

Age Segregation Spurs Ugly Family Divide

Learning is either a two-way street or a dead-end run. We can drive that engine!

Age discrimination

(SALEM) - Why are we perpetrating putting the generations into tiny little compartments? We seem to be shortsighted in the long run, making a mockery of family connections.

I grant you that this writer is from the 1950's generation of Ozzie and Harriet in which grandparents and grandchildren live in the same area. My own childhood was spent in Brooklyn during and after WW II. Living with grandparents and a single aunt as well as a teen uncle made life mighty interesting.

Diverse personalities to observe, a great training ground for a little kid. An extended family offers a different sort of education.

There are distinct benefits to having three generations under the very same roof and the current cadre of young people are deprived of that exposure. Grandparents supply us a kind of unconditional love that is the buffer between a parent-child conflict. Many a kid feels that "acceptance" is a way that only an older person can truly bestow.

Now that so many households are two-paycheck families, parental leadership can become marginal. The influence of youthful peers often fills that vacuum. And that can turn into what we describe as "the blind leading the blind". Vulnerability ensues from within. Bullying runs rampant. Depression rises as self-esteem plummets.

The last three decades have witnessed increased family mobility across the nation. Consequently, most grandparents reside far away from their grandchildren. Family reunions are confined to summer vacations and year-end holidays. Grandparents thus become peripheral. This is a tragedy of our own making, albeit unwitting.

We need to...reconnect the dots. Grandparents need the opportunity to impart the experiences of life's uneven journey to the younger set. No need to reinvent that proverbial wheel for each new generation. Sharing should never be obsolete.

One note of caution to grandparents: avoid a self-righteous attitude. That stance can create ugly barriers that split apart families even further. Appreciate the difference between generations and sit not in judgment of right vs, wrong. More can be gained as an apostle of curiosity and wonderment.

Learning is either a two-way street or a dead-end run. We can drive that engine!


NOTE: Lee served as both social worker and sociologist for over three decades, with intergenerational links always a top priority.  He welcomes comments from others who hold that passion; write


NOTE: B. Lee Coyne first emerged as a Caucasian cub reporter for the Black weekly NY Voice and was assigned to cover numerous civil rights struggles. It has left its indelible mark on his mindset. He can be contacted at:

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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