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Forgotten practices and skills that seniors can teach to youth

It is clear that with today’s changing world, senior citizens can be at a disadvantage when it comes to technology. They may lack the skills that today’s youth have to grasp and utilise technology which is changing all the time. But, on the other hand, this younger generation that seems to be so skilled in modern technologies also lacks some important practices and skills that the older generation has mastered long ago. So, what can seniors teach today’s youth?  

One obvious result of today’s young people relying on modern technology is a drop in their face-to-face communication skills; with their reliance on text and other forms of online communication, Generation Z is now the loneliest generation in today’s world (Cigna, 2020). Although technology can serve as a tool for social support, especially during times of isolation such as the COVID-19 pandemic (Rosen et al., 2022), it has also cut off parts of human contact that are essential to communication, such as eye contact and body language. This disconnect has caused a lack of soft skills in this generation, which may even affect their ability to become employed or hold own a job (Schwabel, 2019). Senior citizens, on the other hand, are used to dropping off CVs in person to apply for a job, attending interviews face-to-face, and working closely in a team with others. Thus, they have had the opportunity to develop essential soft skills for work, which is something Gen Z can certainly stand to improve.  

Moreover, Gen Z (and even the slightly older Millenial geneation) seem to have lost a host of additional life skills which their older counterparts still maintain as important to this day (Howe, 2014). Older people feel far more comfortable working on a car, cooking, fixing items around the house, repairing torn clothes, and reading a map than Millenials. These basic life skills are something that used to be explicitly taught in school or simply learned by necessity, but a changing curriculum and over-reliance on technology has made many of these skills obsolete in younger people. In fact, some school districts in the United States have started to reintroduce classes such as Home Economics and Woodworking in an attempt to foster these life skills in their students.  

Finally, perhaps the most valuable practices the older generation can teach young people are those that help us cope with life in general. Generational wisdom can be passed down to younger people as a valuable tool for coping, and one study found that wisdom even has an ameliorating effect on well-being in the face of adverse life events (Ardelt & Jeste, 2018). This study concluded that greater wisdom, especially in the self-reflective vein, can buffer the negative effects that adverse life events have on one’s sense of well-being. Undoubtedly, passing down wisdom is something important the older generation can do to promote a happy life for their younger counterparts.  

Through the activities of our NTSL – NewTech Senior Leader project, we will bring together young people and senior citizens aiming to give them the chance to learn from each other. Young people will support seniors to improve their digital skills while seniors will show to youth forgotten practices and activities.  

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