When I was young there were old people; lots of them. My grandparents generation were a funny lot; they’d been through a couple of world wars and a great depression; they dressed in tweed and plus fours, wore hats and pearls, and generally stuck within rigid gender boundaries. Barring a few eccentricities being old was clearly defined and meant something much more than the number of years they’d been on planet earth.

Though I loved the older members of my own family, and knew plenty of their friends too, as a teenager and beyond it struck me that they really were from another world. They had difficulty empathising with my teenage angst and the rights of passage through which I passed. They always asked remarkably strange questions about my way of life and made observations which frequently left me cringing. Their idea of “looks nice on you” and mine were diametrically opposed. They spoke about “courting” and “walking out” and assumed that every boy or girl you brought home would signal wedding bells.

What becomes apparent as I look through my family history is that life before the Second World War was very different. You were a child, then you were an adult. You got a job, got married and had children. In that order. Those were the rights of passage that my grandparents knew. Life was all very formal. They didn’t have teenage years of pop music, getting pi**ed in friends back gardens, going to gigs, teenage sects, university, years out, flat shares, cohabitation, s**** experimentation, cr*p tv and all the shenanigans that fills the lives of fifteen to thirty year olds these days. They just didn’t share that and it was all too obvious.

However our parents did and as I watch their generation, now grandparents themselves, I don’t see them making the same basic errors; they’re much more in tune with their grandchildren and the lives they lead. In many ways that is a surprise as my nieces and nephews are growing up in the world of social media the potential of which makes me look back on my own teens and shudder at the social disasters I would probably have exposed myself to. But those are just different pieces needed to play the game; in essentials the game is the same.

And though that generation are now well in their sixties and seventies those concepts are still fresh and relevant; they get where young people are coming from and if they’ve bought into tech, so much better still. Our parents could be mods or rockers; they knew about “being careful”; they screamed at pop stars and wallowed in muddy fields wearing next to nothing. When they had their clothes on they were bang on trend. The language may be different but they get it and that’s all for the good.

I can’t imagine now that the younger generations look upon their elders with the same combination of fear, awe and bewilderment that I once did. For them; old people don’t really exist; of course there are a lot of people who’ve been around much, much longer but no real old people with buttonholes and boiled sweets. I wonder if my nieces and nephews would agree with that? Maybe I should ask them… Talk to the younger generation? Grumble, humph.

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