One of the Most Rewarding Things You Can Ever Do in Life

Bill Abbate

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Is there a divide between the young and the old today?

You are familiar with the term "generation gap," aren't you? This gap is most easily described as the difference from one generation to the next, leading to potential conflict and communication difficulties.

Does it exist, and if so, how bad is it?

The old vs. the young

My wife and I are fortunate that many of the younger people we are around want coaching, mentoring, and advice from us "older" folks. Sure, we may be their parents' age, and sometimes their grandparents, but we experience little conflict with younger people, hence a smaller "gap" than some. Since most are Christians, that is no surprise.

As a kid, I lived in Japan for three years, fully immersed in the culture. We lived "off-base" in a small village on Tokyo Bay. It was a wonderful part of my life, and I cherish the memories of that time and how friendly the local people were.

In the '60s, few of the locals spoke English. We had to learn to communicate as best we could. They appreciated our interest and effort to learn their language, as we appreciated their effort to learn ours.

One thing that always stood out about the Japanese culture was their profound respect for older people. It was quite different than in the USA during that time. I suspect many Japanese continue to embrace that respect, as it was deeply rooted in their culture.

There seems to be a variance in how older people are seen throughout the USA. Although some show little respect for their elders, I like to think the number who respect us is greater, at least much of the time in many areas of the country.

Some young people give little or no thought to how they will one day be that older person!

An advantage older people often have over younger people is in the experience they have gathered. Provided they have paid attention and developed the right skills, that is. Some older people choose to keep growing, but some do not.

Older people who do not keep working on their life eventually succumb to atrophy. Their life shrinks as they age. In this case, the young have an advantage. Many young people are working on and developing the skills they need to succeed in life. Much of this is out of necessity. When you are young and have your entire life ahead of you, why would you not want to do better?

Yet some elderly give up and lose interest in life. They may be a long way from wanting to die, but their life becomes meaningless to them. All they do is exist from one day to the next.

For the most part, these older people simply have no one showing interest in them. They have little or no family, and no one appreciates them. Can you imagine going through life having no close relationships and not being appreciated? How worthless would that make you feel?

Sadly, it seems only a few maintain enough self-worth to continue to thrive. A lack of self-worth is a terrible mindset that leads to severe atrophy of the mind and no desire to do more in life. These people lose interest and their zest for life. Their world shrinks to the point they barely exist.

"True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new." Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944)

Thankfully practically everyone reading this has a desire to not only live but to flourish in life. You have a more open mindset and desire to know more, do more, and become more. You see life as full of potential and possibilities. You have a zest for living to the fullest of your potential. You are the type of person who can go far and impact many in your lifetime.

If you are older, you may have some amazing family and friends. Because of your relationships and your love of life, you continue to thrive.

Unfortunately, far too many older people have given up or are on the verge of doing so. Can you imagine being that alone in life?

What can be done?

Let me start with an insight to help you get off on the right foot if you decide to follow through on what I am about to suggest. Whatever you do, never treat anyone as if they are a victim. This not only diminishes their value but is degrading to them as a human being.

Treat them with the respect they deserve. They have been on this earth a long time, and their remaining years will be fewer than yours. Breathe some life back into them as their life comes closer to its end.

One of the greatest things we can do in life is to help a fellow human being. Why not take some time to experience the joy of helping someone. Do you know an older person who is lonely? Whose life is shrinking? Befriend that senior you suspect has reached this stage and do a few very simple things to help them in their life. Always remember, the greatest thing you can do for anyone is to help them feel valued, regardless of their age. Spend a little time to:

  • Befriend them
  • Encourage them
  • Have conversations with them
  • Become curious about their life
  • Seek to learn from them
  • Talk with them
  • Lend them your ear
  • Visit them regularly
  • Take a small present to them, even if it is only a snack
  • Show and, more importantly, tell them how much you appreciate them and the life they have lived

Doing even one of these little things can make a huge difference in their life. While you are at it, why not treat other older people this way? Even your parents, grandparents, or that nearby elderly neighbor. They need to know they are valued too!

Anytime you help someone like this, you will receive a reward of immense satisfaction in your life. If you have kids, get them involved to experience the amazing benefits of helping someone feel valued in life.

Listen to what this person has to say. Iris is only 100 years old!

"Just because you get to a certain number doesn't mean you have to roll up into a ball and wait for the grim reaper. We were put on this earth to do something! If you stop using your brain, at any age, it is going to stop working. It's like if you stop using your hand, it will atrophy. I think doing nothing is a curse." Iris Apfel (1921-present!)

Imagine helping someone reverse that atrophy and come to life again. That has to rank up there with the best things that can happen in life!

Final thoughts

Remember, there was a time in life they were like you, filled with hope and aspirations. Then life happened; they aged and slowly lost hope. If they can gain even a little of that hope back, imagine the joy it would bring to their life.

Find that older person that you can encourage today. You never know the impact you can have on someone's life until you try. You will not only enrich their life; you will enrich yours as well. If ever a win-win situation existed, this is it!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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