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Bridging the Generation Gap

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17 Apr 2023

5 Min Read

Esther Ng (Guest Contributor), Nellie Chan (Editor)

IN THIS ARTICLE

Ever notice a gap between your generation and the generations before you? We explore why and how we can bridge it, fostering intergenerational relationships.

Spending time with the family is always the highlight of the festive season, and rightly so, seeing that it is a time for laughter, love, and joy. However, there is something, or someone, often forgotten once the festivities end. Why is it that only during special occasions do we show our love and care for our elderly family members?

Family of multiple generations sitting in a living room

Malaysia today is a society that is teeming with energy and enthusiasm. Everywhere I turn, I am met with the talent of the younger generation (i.e., Gen Z) and their achievements for this country. Even so, I can’t help but feel a sense of sadness. Why? Because despite our advancements or accomplishments, we, as a society, are taking the older generation for granted, slowly but surely widening the generation gap.

Taken for Granted

For some of us, older relatives are just another part of the furniture in our homes. Only during the festivities do we see people taking care to care for their elderly — a sentiment not shared throughout the rest of the year in the absence of family gatherings.

 

When we take our elderly for granted, we fail to recognise the value of their experiences, perspectives, and knowledge. Yes, it may be frustrating to explain to them how TikTok works or how to find a video on YouTube, but that doesn’t make them any less competent. We often forget that they have lived through times that are vastly different from ours. They might not be well versed in what we know as common knowledge, but what they know they once used to contribute and provide for our families and communities. Despite this, we still see them abandoned and alone in nursing homes, forgotten and ignored by their own flesh and blood.

Grandfather using a smartphone while granddaughter looks on

Neglected of Care

Just as we have taken our elderly for granted, so have we taken for granted their physical and mental health. As people age, they become more vulnerable to numerous health problems, and Alzheimer’s disease is one of them — a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Because of our neglect towards them, this disease can be easily missed, and its symptoms like forgetfulness and confusion can be, more so, easily dismissed as normal signs of ageing. What’s more, it is also because of our neglect that their risk of developing the disease is increased due to a lack of social interaction and mental stimulation. So, strike up a conversation with them if and when you can. And I'm sure that if you asked, they would be more than happy to tell you all about their glory days.

Despite the Differences

What follows from the younger generation taking the older generation for granted is the widening of the generation gap. We undervalue the contributions of our elderly and overlook their needs because we failed to connect with them and thus failed to understand them, be it their values, opinions, or beliefs!

 

Take happiness, for instance. The younger generation, like us, tends to find happiness in pursuing our passions or exploring new experiences. But for the older generation, happiness is often found in living a simple life. Our differences, whether about happiness or anything else, shouldn't be seen to separate us but rather bring us together to learn from one another. One of the many ways we could learn between generations is through cooking! After all, who else but our parents or grandparents can teach us the art of eyeballing measurements in the kitchen?

Father and grandfather cooking in a kitchen

Learning Is a Two-Way Street

The world that we live in is constantly changing, and as the saying goes, 'out with the old, in with the new.' But while change is inevitable, not everyone adapts to change the same. And it is this difference between generations that has brought about misunderstandings and conflicts. Like with technology, our parents think we're too attached to our devices, but we see it as keeping up with the times. Let’s just say we agree to disagree. 

 

So, to bridge the gap between us, we must be willing to learn from one another. But just as the younger generation has a responsibility to learn from the older generation, so should the older generation be more open to learning from the younger generation; this is how we can come to respect the perspective of the other and earn respect in return. Only when we recognise our differences and learn to respect them can we create a more age-inclusive society.

Beyond the Festivities

In short, the older generation is much more than just a face in the crowd — they are our parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends. They are the ones who once upheld our culture and traditions and formed the foundations of our society. Regardless of the misunderstandings and conflicts, we must acknowledge and appreciate the value they add to our lives and make an effort to connect with them. We also shouldn't limit our time spent with them to special occasions but make time for them every other day of the year. So, in this festive season of Raya and beyond, let’s show them the love and care they deserve and bridge that gap.

 

And, Selamat Hari Raya!

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Esther Ng is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Honours) at Taylor’s University. As a former president of the Taylor’s College Student Council, she discovered her love for writing as a means of stress relief during her term.

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