I Wish Older People Talked to Younger People More.

Via Madison Moross
on Feb 14, 2011
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I realized a while back that I knew very little about the lives, experiences and lessons of the adults that raised me beyond that most of them got divorces, that they experienced war, revolution, drugs and music in some way that they didn’t like to talk much about, and that they worried a lot about money.

… and back in high school, history class was a complete bore. We memorized dates and vocabulary, but in all honesty we didn’t give a crap (and I’m speaking here for what I believe to be the majority, since it includes the dorks like me who liked school and even enjoy the sick thrill of taking tests…).

Looking back, it surely would have been more interesting if we had realized that Mrs. History, Mr. Math, and Mom n’ Dad were there, experiencing the effects of the world wars, corrupt politics, assassinations, and either revolting on the streets by day, and binging on sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll by night, or fighting and smoking weed out of their assault rifles themselves. We would have been a lot more inclined to pay attention if the association had truly been made that it affected them, affected the way they taught and raised us, and the world that we live in today.

Someone asked me the other day, after learning about my initiatives and interest in encouraging conscious consumerism, what I thought I would think about all of this when I got older—if I anticipated that my passion for it would die down as the reality of my facility for changing the world was realized (aka found lacking).

A few days later my lovely yoga guru, Joe, during a lengthy philosophical conversation with Phannie and me, told us that “we were just like them in the 60’s and 70’s”. That he’d been searching for decades for the same answers, brainstorming the same ideas, and continued to run into road blocks all along.

This was a defining moment for me. I realized that the fact that all of our concerns, radical ideas of communion and consciousness, and impassioned drive to reform the twisted system that we all passively dance around in, resemble pretty darn intimately the counter-culture rebellions of the baby boomers generation. Furthermore, that this probably related to the reason why I know so little about their paths through life, and why they’re so resistant to our young minds’ ideas for change. Could it be that, in their eyes, their attempts at changing the world possibly only made it worse?

It occurred to me that as they “grew up” their voices and lives more or less surrendered to the bureaucracy, most without even realizing it. Somehow their revolution was either suppressed or capitalized on. For those not calling the shots (that aren’t in the top 1%), in order to make it they had to either give up on their ideas or watch them fail, tolerate a so-called career that most disliked, and adopt the consumptive habits that propaganda called freedom and happiness. How could they not be resistant and critical of our altruistic attempts to shift the direction of our society? How could they not believe I was naïve for thinking that my voice, my vote, counted? After all, none of their ideas worked!

About six months ago, as I was contemplating “where,” “why,” “what” and “how” to step foot into the real world because whether I liked it or not the “when” had come as I graduated from college. In search of wisdom, I sent out a survey to all of the “adults” I knew. I asked them two questions:

1. What, if anything, would you have done differently when you were in your early twenties?

2. What in your adulthood has brought you the most happiness and contentment?

I got several great responses, with a few very apparent themes. Mainly, that they wished that they had spent more time when they were young exploring, getting to know themselves and their world before having settled down with a career and/or family; but also that their relationships with people (mostly their families) and hobbies (specifically artistic, spiritual or outdoor activities) brought them the most happiness. Most mentioned that they wished they hadn’t accepted and acted out of the opinions of others so much. Typically the ones that positively mentioned their career also mentioned incorporating their passions into it; and the only other thing referred to with monetary value that brought “happiness” was the stability and joy of owning a home. Hmmm.

Interestingly, I’ve also noticed that most adults my parents age and older that I know are not just retiring (maybe because most can’t afford to), but making other major changes in their lifestyles right now as well, either out of will or necessity. Most seem to be challenging their habits in an attempt to enhance their mental and physical health. Several are even creating new careers, starting their own businesses, ones that try to incorporate not only their needs and desires for monetary stability, but their values, passions and enjoyment mechanisms. There is this overarching energy of dabbling in the mystery of anti-convention… of allowing the pieces to arrange in a completely new way, in a less compartmentalized and more whole-istic way.

Who knows, this could just be the phase of life they’re in and nothing atypical. Or, perhaps it points to something more.

I guess what I’m getting at here is that it seems to me that we’re all starting to catch on, and though it may seem like a lost cause to many older adults at this point in their lives to attempt to shift the way things work on a more macro level, me and mine have a lot of life ahead of us and we’re concerned, for more than just our lives. We want to live differently, and we want to help provoke change on a larger scale so that we can activate rather than pacify our lives and our children’s.

I heard a wonderful, wise old woman say once that the key to worldliness is staying friends with people from every age group. I wonder what a different world it would be if we all prioritized that. If we reflected, talked, listened, and brain stormed ideas together. My guess is that as much as we may hate to admit it, we could all learn a lot from the wisdom of others’ experience … especially from different ages and walks of life.

Call it idealistic, but I don’t want my kids to have a shorter life expectancy than me, as this generation of kids does (the first generation expected to not outlive their parents). I don’t want mainstream culture to be merely consumer culture. I do want to be able to think outside of the over 3000 advertisements we all see a day. I want my kids to realize that there is a difference between accepting the present, and submissively settling for circumstances; between success for the sake of accomplishment, and achievement for the sake of enhancing the collective; and between reaction, and action.

My hope is that my answer to the question of what I expect to think about this all as I get older is true: that I hope to stay active, but just know a lot more by then. But, to do that I want to know what worked and didn’t and how we can alter things to work better now and in the future. I want to know more than just what textbooks and research say. I think I speak for more than just myself when I say that we have no problem resembling the rad hippies of the 60’s and 70’s, but we surely do not want to repeat history. We want to make history. So, come on, let’s start some conversation.


About Madison Moross

Madison Moross is a dancer, writer, yogini and amateur activist. She is part of The Big P (picture) Project and the co-founder of Radiance Movement, both projects aimed at revitalizing our individual and collective consciousness through sustainability and embodiment practices. She believes sustainability encompasses more than just the preserving the planet, but simultaneously our communities, bank-accounts, relationships, bodies, minds, and spirits; that despite popular perception, our people, planet, and our pocket-books work hand-in-hand quite harmoniously. Her favorite things include people, plants, dirt, dance and food.


34 Responses to “I Wish Older People Talked to Younger People More.”

  1. Samara says:

    Great article, Madison!

  2. Joe says:

    Let's start talking, I'm listening and I am one of the old hippies. Joe

  3. Zoë says:

    This article makes a great point. In the U.S. we tend to be separated into different generational cultures (for instance, outside of parents and teachers, teens have their own social world totally separate from younger kids and older adults, and the same is true of college students). Intergenerational friendships are rare. Compare this with more communal living of other cultures and times where everyone is part of the same social world. I think that we put too much distance between our generations, and that this distance leads to filtering in order to be a good influence or impress. Let's welcome other generations into our lives and get some genuine communication going.

  4. Nick says:

    That’s awesome Madison, I’d bet it was incredibly fulfilling for those adults who you got responses from to have been able to pass some of their wisdom on through you. Those are some really good questions; I might just copy them and go talk to my parents.

  5. Julie says:

    Madison- This is article is very interesting. Lets indeed keep working to make a succesful future by talking about the past

  6. Kelsey K says:

    This is a great article, I think many of us who have just gotten out of college wonder what happened to the revolutionary spirit that gripped our parent’s youth, and wondering if we just missed our chance for similar rebellion. I encourage every one to talk to their grandparents and older people. Maybe they did not give up and succumb perhaps it is a perspective change that comes with age and experience. Check out storycorps on npr (http://www.npr.org/series/4516989/storycorps ) its a project where relatives interview each other and then the interviews get cataloged in the library of congress giving us a window into different generations.

  7. Molly says:

    you write beautifully!

  8. rose says:

    I get people everyday at work say the same thing! they come in on their much break and end up talking well into their afternoon

  9. Simone says:

    This is such a great idea and the way you avoided putting a negative spin on communication/the seeming lack thereof is so reassuring. and encouraging! kudos!

  10. Breann says:

    I just spent a week with my 80+ year old grandparents in rural Kentucky. And I did just what you are talking about- I talked to them. I asked question. I listened. And I came away with almost the exact same lesson: I see so many similarities in their past's with my own future, and I also see how they settled and compromised and ended up with a lot of regrets. And I DONT want that. How can we possibly stimulate a global change for the better if we just follow in the exact same footsteps of the generation before us? Loved the article and your perspective. I would like to read more.

  11. Joy says:

    Madison, I love you for being you. I appreciate having you as a friend. I'm 64 years young and think that sharing thoughts and ideas that mean something shows that there really is LOVE in the world even on this Valentine's Day when the word "love" sometimes gets a bit "screwed" up. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this article.

  12. Zach says:

    Great article!!! lets make consumerism a tool of society, not society a tool of consumerism

  13. Danica Waters says:

    I'm an "old hippie", as well, enamored with what Madison has presented here. There is an ancient symbol found on African (Ghanan) Andikra cloths called "Sankofa" – it is the shape of a heart, with two spirals turning inwards to form the top portion of the heart. The symbol means "Turn back and fetch it", speaking to the power of learning from that which has come before. I think Madison has embodied the meaning of "Sankofa" in her article, and I hope to see more of her writing here on a regular basis!

  14. Hayley says:

    We could all use a period of separation from the definitions of our roles and relationships to interact as individuals — people whose experiences transcend time and allow true learning. Nice article.

  15. Madison says:

    Well said Zach, I've never heard it put like that. Mind if I add that to the quotes on our blog?

  16. Bill Starr says:

    Very well written Madison -Bill

  17. Caroline says:

    Beautifully written by a beautiful person inside and out :). I love you, Mad. I can't wait to see where our lives take us. Love, Fer

  18. Phannie says:

    Wow, great article! While living in a world that is changing so rapidly and the uncertain future is so focused upon, I think it's really important to look back to the ones who have been around to see much more than us young activists. Let's not forget our roots as we blossom.

  19. Katie says:

    As you've shown in this insightful article, there is so much wisdom to be gained from people of all ages. In a society that often seems doomed to be vapid, thanks for putting out a little reminder that there is so much we can learn from eachother!

  20. Donna says:

    Consciousness begins with the individual and individuals have been searching for higher consciousness in every age. There are people in every generation who want to change the world for the better and continue with that desire until they leave this world. The exchange of ideas of how to bring about change is what is exciting and propels the change along. Your article points to the wisdom that we are surrounded with problem-solving solutions from people of all ages and that our real test is will we stop talking long enough to listen to each other.

  21. Greg Morgan says:


  22. Hannah says:

    I love your style of writing. One thing that I love about UNO is that most of my teachers are very open with us about themselves as it relates to history and those are unquestionably the classes I get the most from.

  23. Madison says:

    As the phrase "change the world" has become so static, I think we tend to forget that the world is always changing, and that we are the world. People keep talking about either doing it, or not having the power to do it. The fact is that we're doing it everyday whether we like it or not! Every purchase… is a vote. Every interaction… either creating friendship or creating animosity. Every thought .. a seed for either re-conditioning for de-conditioning patterns. "Changing the world" is a daunting and seemingly impossible task .. maybe we should rephrase it to "changing our own worlds." But to do that we all need to be able to talk, and to listen. Most of us are good at only one of those.

  24. Madison says:


    1. How do you think we bridge the gap and encourage younger and older women specifically to talk? And not just one-sidedly…

    2. How do we take judgement and mere criticism out of the conversation?

    3. What incentives do people need? And how do we provide them?

  25. Marie Davis-Green says:

    Beautifully written Madison. We do have a lot to learn from each other. I am starting a new design class to talk about these very issues. I look forward to hearing more from you.

  26. Aaron says:

    Excellent thoughts Madison, reminds me of an article I read about the superior health of the very old (90yrs plus) in Japanese culture versus other modern cultures (e.g., American, Canadian, carious European). The idea is that in many Japanese communities, the elderly are actively integrated with the younger generations (unlike their segregation in Western societies) and that this promotes their mental health and thereby increases longevity. While that article focused on the benefits for the elderly, I think your point that the younger generations can also benefit is an often glossed-over and important point. Cheers.

  27. Amanda says:

    You make some great points in this article and it gave me a lot to think about! Thanks Madison 🙂

  28. Jessie Peterson says:

    Yay for my amazing sister!!!!!! Shes really onto something!

  29. Joe Sparks says:

    Remember everyone is very good. Everyone is very fine. Basically, people are in every case infinitely precious, and along with being, each one of them, completely unique, they also are fundamentally just alike. The differences between people are very interesting and make them even more valuable to know. People are never to be envied nor looked down upon for their differences. Always support everyone as best you can and model for others and lead others as well as you can. Trust your own thinking. Other people's thinking can be important information for you, but only your own thinking is thinking for you. Enjoy your life thoroughly. Lead the world. It is waiting for your leadership. Thanks for your thinking about us!

  30. David Paul Bayles says:

    Thank you so much for this work. You've given a voice to some of what I feel when Emily, Juliana and their friends are home and we all get into conversation and storytelling. Bless you for following your curiosity!!

  31. Bruce Hostetter says:

    some of us did get entrenched but some of us escaped before we died (lost our connection to the revolutionary values that were swirling in the smoke filled, cosmic, void between our parents childhood and our own, we called it the "60's"). I believe that if your passion can manifest itself at a level of development that is sufficient to survive the threat of home ownership, you can leverage your equity stakes in the world and use them as a staff to pull yourself and others through the muck that my generation has left in its wake. In permaculture the problem is the solution, the muck is the nutrient, keep your staff plodding through there and picture the verdant creation you can make, and you will never loose your passion. Thanks for inspiring all of us inter-generationalist to gather and sit with green chili in our bowls and good conversation at hand, and exchange what we have of value to offer, not just either, but humanity, the muck we are, the potential we embrace.

  32. manohar gurung says:

    Brilliant , it is very practical and i look forward to hear from you … “Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”

  33. Dizzle says:

    Great article Madison it definitely got me thinking and this comment would be much longer, but the site wouldn't let me say all that I wanted too.

  34. Jeffrey Hunter says:


    Your article definately got me thinkin! Your "Wisdom Search" questions are tough ones :)~

    Oh yeah, we met on the bus yesterday…

    Thank you for sharing your writing with me,