Due to our social difficulty in discussing many things freely, we live in an intellectually and emotionally impoverished environment. Life’s opportunities are lost because our “normal society” does not give us opportunities or “spaces” to speak freely about our talents, aspirations and needs. Every week I interact with older people who have all sorts of knowledge, experience and insights that they would love to share.
Many of these people are activists who wish to change the world and make it a better place for their children and grandchildren. Some people are only looking for self-expression — a friendly space where they will be heard, understood and respected for who they are. During the productive phase of their life, these seniors have been respected because of their knowledge and expertise; but after retirement, they are seen as irrelevant to “normal society”, and rejected in all kinds of subtle ways, even within their own families.
While some of their knowledge may indeed be outdated in today’s business environment, a large part of their knowledge and experience is in fact extremely relevant and have both practical value and economic value. Besides their professional or business knowledge, almost everybody has “soft skills” – skills that are difficult to define, but which are extremely valuable. Some examples:
1) RETIRED GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS have knowledge of how work gets done in government offices. They can guide RTI activists and aggrieved citizens.
2) RETIRED CORPORATE MANAGERS have knowledge that can help a young person set up a new venture, or diversify, or simply hold the fort for a couple of weeks while the young person takes a much-needed vacation.
3) ELDERLY “RETIRED” HOUSEWIVES have cookery skills in traditional cuisines, as well as some rare household skills, which they may teach to young housewives.
4) ELDERLY PEOPLE WITH THE RIGHT TEMPERAMENT can be great friends, tutors and mentors to children and even teenagers.
5) MANY SENIORS HAVE RARE SKILLS about which they usually keep quiet. But if they are given an attentive learner or audience, they may open up and impart skills such as, say, spin bowling, swimming, gardening, yoga or martial arts.
On the other end of the spectrum, one sees lonely children and teenagers in households where both the parents are too busy climbing the career-ladder to give them time and attention during the day. Many kids are desperately in need of a tutor-cum-friend who will spend time with them in the afternoon or evening – and not just an “aayah” or elderly servant. For instance, they may need someone to play chess or carom with them.
Quite often, the parents of such emotionally needy kids hesitate to approach the elderly persons in their own neighbourhood, friends’ circle or family, as it is difficult to broach the topic of mentoring or tutoring, and to discuss money-matters and other practical expectations.
THE NEED TO DISCUSS PHILOSOPHIES OF LIFE in an encouraging secular, non-judgmental space is something that many of us feel – young, old or middle-aged. Forget discussions, we have a need to just get together, hold hands and laugh together, and not feel judged and threatened!
There is a need for such “spaces” to exist around us, so that we all feel fulfilled and complete as human beings. Since they don’t exist in our fragmented society, we need to go out of our way to create such non-threatening spaces. This is important for our wellness; our spiritual, mental and even physical wellness depends on it! As a society and as individuals, we are becoming fragmented and shattered. We now need to invent ways to make ourselves whole again.
To bridge the gap between elderly and young people, and to actively seek a more holistic life experience for all of us living in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), some friends and I have launched a GOOGLEGROUP CALLED ‘SENIOR MENTORS ‘N YOUNG FRIENDS’. Our effort is to create a moderated space where we can share our life’s experiences in a friendly and unorthodox manner. And we will try to organize GET-TOGETHERS IN MUMBAI, NAVI MUMBAI OR THANE for people of similar interests and temperaments.
The forum will be moderated to avoid arguments and personal attacks, as well as various pitfalls that prevent deeper communication from happening. So, the googlegroup has a few rules:
(i) No discussions about politics and corruption on the googlegroup.
(ii) Don’t send “forwards”.
(iii) Avoid criticism along the lines of religious denominations, sects, communities etc.
(iv) Avoid personal attacks and prolonged one-on-one arguments.
(v) You are encouraged to talk about your life’s experiences and perceptions, and to appreciatively listen. If you like something, say so; but if you don’t like something, please just keep quiet.
(vi) If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. Please don’t hurt others.
IF YOU WISH TO JOIN SENIOR MENTORS ‘N YOUNG FRIENDS, please email me at email@example.com. Membership is free.