Pat Bruner, senior participant in Better Together Phoenix delivered this speech at our end of year celebration.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to what to say about the Better Together program and what it has meant to its participants, along with what it should mean to all of us.
To my fellow adults, if we seriously think about our own lives growing up we will realize that many times we could not – or would not – go to our parents with a problem or a question. And sometimes it was our relationship with our parents over a particular issue that was the problem. If we were truly blessed to have extended family close by, we often went to them. Honestly people, don’t you remember allying yourself with Bubbe or Zayde against your parents on an issue? What a feeling of empowerment when you were actually treated as an individual with valid opinions or complaints! Or at least had things explained in ways that made you see your parents as individuals who had your best interests at heart instead of just being unfair tyrants.
Today that family dynamic is not always present with families spread throughout the country. If we are lucky, we get to share occasional phone calls or skype chats, but not that deep closeness that only can grow over time. And all generations get cheated.
Add to this the power and pervasiveness of social media and our young people naturally often turn to their peers and the internet in general to vent and get support for their decisions.
It is my belief that this program can and does fill a void in today’s families. Young people get to see seniors as something besides frail, crotchety, forgetful, sometimes smelly individuals that are easy to make fun of or to avoid altogether. Instead they can begin to realize that we were young once ourselves and faced many of the same situations they do today.
And seniors – some of whom are isolated from their offspring for one reason or another – get to have the inspiration of fresh young faces and ideas. My friends and compatriots, do take advantage of their youth and experiences that we were never exposed to and let them teach us how to utilize these “new-fangled gizmos” so we can regain some of that closeness between generations. And if it helps to teach them patience, so much the better!
If we are truly fortunate, young adults can start to see us as “experienced” not just “old.” And – just maybe – we can help to make the past come alive for them as we recount our stories of those times that to them are only in the pages of history books. We are, after all, living documentaries!
The young adults I have met through this program have invariably been polite and well-spoken. Parents, you are obviously doing a good job raising this new generation. Thank you for allowing and encouraging them to interact with us. I personally can hardly wait until next year to meet more of these fresh faces and to deepen my relationship with some of those in the program this year.