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Disconnect to connect or connect to reconnect?

Generational gap is manmade. Creating a connection is also manmade. Connect wisely.

95 year old Tun Mahathir recently joined TikTok. He showed off his “modelling skills” and even completed the “I’m Just a Kid” challenge by comparing current photos of him and his wife with those from their youth.

While others might say, politically, he might want to tap into the pool of young voters; some would say he’s a very senior citizen keeping up with trends. Regardless, he is reaching out to an audience untypical of his generation’s, in this case, via a digital content sharing platform.

Generational gap is most apparent in the context of familial ties. As technology advances, so does the so-called generational divide between those born reading newspapers and those born reading tablets. Even as 5G is on the horizon, there still exists a disconnection.

News of an elderly couple dancing on TikTok recently turned heads on social media too. The 78 year olds – Grandpa Chan and Grandma Marina – who danced to hit songs like Dynamite by BTS and Sexyback by JT, started this to maintain an active lifestyle during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Besides keeping sedentariness at bay, they are “making things to connect with four grandkids”. Dancing the talk, they were seen moving to the rhythm with their grandchildren in some of their videos.

It’s pretty heartening to see that generations like the boomers and those before them aren’t fazed and deterred from trying out things that are foreign to them, for them to be able to connect them to their loved ones from younger generations, in which these “techy stuff” comes like a second nature to them.

Since the MCOs, I have had friends telling me stories of how they connect to generations younger than them, and vice versa, by doing things that would create common interests or topics to talk about.

Categorised as a boomer, Wendy who’s in her late 50s signed up for an online course about nutrition. Besides educating herself on what her body needs and what goes into her body, she finds this useful as a conversation starter with her son who is an avid gym-goer.

“I now understand why my son eats what he eats and has a special muscle-gain meal plan that he sticks to religiously. Nowadays, when he explains BMR (basal metabolic rate), creatine or calorie deficit, I get it!” she told me proudly.

Besides, she told me that at her age, she needs to take supplements to maintain a good general well-being. The difference between before and after she took up the online course on Nutrition, is that now she knows what to look for to cater to what her body needs supplemented and obtain a prescription for the right dosages. At least now, she doesn’t just consume anything and everything that’s said to be “good for her” by salespersons.

While the examples above show how a comparatively older generation reaches out to a younger generation, my friend, Jaslyn, told me she took up urban gardening to feel closer to her mother; who has absolutely magical green fingers mind you.

During the MCOs, the pair has painted my social media feeds with lush greens and colourful blooms. Together, they have expanded their garden from half a balcony to parts of their kitchen.

While her mother relies on her instincts to care for the plants, Jaslyn would also teach her mother how to search for solutions online on more advanced plant problems and navigate e-commerce platforms to get special tools and fertilisers delivered home.

“Growing plants with my mother have had us grown closer to each other. We’re both learning during this process – me about gardening and her tapping into the digital space to get supplies,” Jaslyn told me. She jokingly added she wished she had her mother’s patience when teaching her mother to “add to cart” and “pay now”.

Technology could be the “culprit” driving the generational gap or it could be used as an excuse for the lack of effort in adapting to how “connection” has evolved. My friends however have shown me that technology doesn’t drive the generational divide wider. It was instead used as a means to bond over something with someone. It is a matter of choosing to create values or close doors while using technology because we know digitalisation is not going anywhere but forward.

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