"Respect Your Elders" is one of those universal sayings that we have all grown up with, but what does that really mean? More to the point, why does that phrase seem to persist across generations and cultures?
David Brooks recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about research showing that the group that rates themselves the happiest overall are those aged 82-85. The article goes on to look at what causes that happiness: is it a biological process that happens to everyone or is it due to the life lessons one would learn as they age?
The thought is that a person that has made it into their 80s necessarily have learned how to navigate through tough times in life. Broadly speaking, they also have fewer of the daily stresses that many people face in their mid-life. Those factors combine to give our elders the unique ability to quickly manage stressors - leaving more time to enjoy the little things.
Ultimately, respecting our elders is something we should do not only to honor those who have paved the path for us, but we should also do so out of pure self-interest. The Brooks' article says "Anxiety is the biggest waste in life. If you know that you'll recover, you can save time and get on with it sooner," says Brooks. What we can learn from our elders is just how valuable our time is. Looking for the happiness in life and learning to better navigate challenges is one of the biggest lessons we can learn.
Respecting our elders does not simply mean to be nice to your grandparents. Rather, it is the key to enriching our shared culture by learning from those who know best.