Lest We Forget 9/11

The older adults in your retirement community may well remember the horrendous events occurring on September 11, 2001, in a different way than you and your younger associates do.

According to psychological research conducted years after 9/11, the majority of seniors appeared to be better prepared emotionally than younger people who had little or no previous experience with such a horrible event.

One reason for it: older adults rely mainly on their many, past experiences as a guide for handling and dealing with late life events.

The most important time for building the life experience base, which we use to understand the world, is during our formative years – generally, the period from birth to early adulthood.

Our shared generational experiences are well formed by our late teens and early 20s, and we rely on them to cope emotionally with tragic events later in life.

In North America, more so than other places that change more slowly, those experiences are quite different from one generation to another because the times are quite different and the changes more impactful.

German sociologist Karl Mannheim called those shared feelings of generations, “zeitgeist” -- a spirit of the times.

Today’s older adults have a zeitgeist or personal history that included the Great Depression, the stock market crash of 1929, World War II, the Cold War and the assassination of a U.S. President. Even if they weren’t quite old enough to experience them first-hand, their parents talked about the events and how they personally dealt with them emotionally.

It is interesting to hear some stories after 9/11 about grandchildren by-passing their parents and going directly to their grandparents and asking how they experienced the difficult times during World War II. They recognized their grandparents had experiences that could help them understand.

A personal, and memorable, experience my wife and I had during 9/11 was trying to locate two of our adult children living in New York at the time. With telephones into the city not working and with us becoming more and more worried, we connected with them via PC and confirmed they were safe. We will not forget 9/11!