The Generation Disconnect
The senescent are no longer willing to be mothballed
Despite the feel good cliches such as 'age is just a number' the world is fixated on youth. Everyone wants to drink the elixir of youth, be 'Forever 21' and look selfie-ready, to flaunt on social media! Demographic dividend (183 million people will be added to the working age group of 15-64 years between 2020-50) is a catchy alliterative phrase in the India story. This geo-economic wonder ingredient is considered critical in unfettering the India shining narrative. Millennials are certainly raring to go and take the country to another level, aided hugely by technology.
How can we forget another strand in this narrative, the senior citizens, who are ‘not so yesterday’ anymore? The senescent are no longer willing to be mothballed till they meet their maker, or count prayer beads to ensure that they enter the Pearly Gates. Nothing will deter their zest for life. Age is not a cage they say! Those pensioners who've lived a disciplined life are ready to shake a leg, however shaky it might be.
Sixty is the new forty, according to the new non-ageist arithmetic of the movers and shakers. Gymming and fitness is the mantra, travelling in groups, learning new languages, picking up new hobbies, and even dating anew is par for the course. There are marriage websites that open up options of finding a partner. This has unleashed a clique of 'sunset industry wallas’ who are laughing all the way to the bank.
The hip and happening youth may be all for ‘50 shades of grey’ with their adrenaline overload, but the old and the grey are not lacklustre either. The youth resist the diktat of unquestioning respect for age, though India still retains vestiges of this point of view in pockets of its hinterland. To reduce the disconnect between the generations both sides have to take a step forward and not live in frozen silos of Boomers vs Zoomers.Just as ageism is to be avoided, demonising the young is unfair too.
The YOLO (you live only once) syndrome drives the young to keep looking for fresh pastures, and yet they don't have to put their parents to pasture.This has generated a whole industry of old age homes, ordinary and luxe.The old people without means are another story all over the world. Left adrift, living on charity or on help from good Samaritans, brings to mind WB Yeats' vivid image expressing the helplessness and indignity of being old, “What shall I do with this absurdity...
Decrepit age that has been tied to me… As to a dog's tail?”
But a few iconic golden agers take the sting out of being long in the tooth with their brimming energy. Since we live in an age of brand ambassadors, there’s no one better than the legendary Amitabh Bachchan who has the chutzpah to be a perfect fit to fill the slot. On the cusp of being an octogenarian, the sprightly star is still 'cool' with that unmistakable baritone voice.
Rajnikanth, the Tamil superstar, could give Amitabh a run for his money. To add more heft to the old brigade and dispel any gender bias, who can forget the uniquely charismatic and zestful Zohra Sehgal, who did not go 'gentle into that good night' till her last breath at a defiant 102! A feisty tag line for the old could be the in-your-face title of AB's film: Buddha hoga Tera baap!