The goal is not to be that old man sitting on a mountaintop, reading something like “Wisdom for Dummies” and expecting young whippersnappers to come seeking enlightenment. It seems a bit arrogant to assume that advanced age automatically provides all the answers.

Go ahead, hit me with a knock-knock joke. I still have to ask, “Who’s there?”

That said, can we consider the possible devolution of the elderly’s status in our society? A friend — like me, classified as a senior — wondered if there might be less respect these days for us geezers. We have decades of vocational participation, have had a front-row seat to remarkable advances and challenges and interactions with all manner of people. We’ve done stuff, seen things. Do young people need to hear about that? Should they want to?

Roughly a half-century into working in the newspaper business, I set about moonlighting by attempting to teach journalism to college students. The theory was that I might be able to pass along a bit of insight — about the trapdoors to be avoided, the expectations to deal with, various tricks of the trade. But the light-speed changes in technology, and of life in general, have rendered my experiences, compared with those of 19- and 20-year-old undergrads, as relatable as if I were from Saturn.

Honestly, does it do the Millennials and Gen-Z people any good to know about dial telephones, typewriters and the old-timey information-delivery systems such as Western Union? (Carrier pigeons were before my time.)

Furthermore, there appears to be ample evidence that the basic process of accumulating birthdays is no special skill. Longevity doesn’t translate into being talented, well-regarded, morally upright, kind and beneficent. Which prevents me from supposing that, just because such vastly accomplished souls as Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, John Updike and Satchel Paige didn’t make it past my current age, I somehow am in that ballpark of masterly sagacity.

And when I ponder having learned the newspaper trade, I must allow that I likely processed as much pertinent information from colleagues as from the grandfatherly set, from others who were in the moment with me. Role models.

Either way, though, knowledge was not coming from within, and it slowly began to sink in that the secret to good journalism — and, frankly, to competence in virtually any profession — is curiosity. And that curiosity leads directly to contemplating history. Which, you could say, is another word for “geriatric.” We old buzzards can accurately be described as “history.”

Here's the thing: Today’s youth doesn’t need a wrinkled old oracle to set them on the path of becoming overachievers. Sage advice — so much of it blindingly obvious — is readily available from multiple sources without having to chase up a mountain in search of some venerable guru: Be prepared. Keep an open mind. Value information. Whistle while you work. Don’t take yourself too seriously (because no one else does.) I can’t offer anything more profound than “always have a pencil and pad with you.”

There is never any harm, though, in having a little guidance to agitate intellect and logic, to demonstrate the familiar maxim that one should learn something new every day.

Certainly the issues that confronted the more mature among us are barely recognizable now.

We didn’t have Google or cellphones or the internet and, yes, we from the Pleistocene era now need to worry about keeping up. But since the past really is prologue, it is not esteem, per se, that the youngsters owe old-timers; rather, the opportunity of having ancients among them to stir some critical thinking.

There is an unattributed quote that goes, “Listen to your elders’ advice. Not because they are always right but because they have more experience of being wrong.” (I found that on the internet!)


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