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The Vanishing American Adult (Part VI) – Chapter 4: Flee Age Segregation

If someone from 18th century Boston were to travel to the present, after they got past our technology the two changes that would more surprised them would be the way we separate work from home and the ways in which we segregate our young from older people in our communities.

300 years ago nobody commuted to work. People worked where they lived. As we separated work from the home we also separated our children from the home by putting them into schools. With time we began to further separate students within schools by age as well. 300 hundred years ago few people knew their birth year; today the year of one’s birth drives one’s life.

Age segregation is closely correlated to antisocial behavior and socialization for competitiveness and aggressiveness. This makes sense. The people most like us are the people that we naturally compete against. A person who spends most of his or her life with peers will feel a sense of constant competition. Conversely, older kids who spend time with younger kids learn to be nurturing, while younger kids learn concrete lessons about the coming stages of intellectual development and economic productivity, as well as how to navigate communities larger than themselves.

What is more, separating ourselves from the elderly makes it easier to deny our own morality. This is detrimental. Life needs to be lived and prioritized with the understanding that it is limited. Awareness of one’s mortality makes life richer because the important can be emphasized and the trivial marginalized. Instead of looking at hard truths and making difficult decisions, we pretend that eternal youth is attainable.

From schools to television programming, there is a lot of pressure to segregate ourselves by age. If we want to grow and mature we must resist this and intentionally seek out inter-generational communities (as soon as the quarantine ends :).