Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Aging and Time-Binding in the Twenty-First Century

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Aging and Time-Binding in the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

THE CONCEPT of "time" has a wide range of meanings and is applied to highly diverse settings. For example, prisoners serve time, musicians mark time, idlers pass time, referees call time, historians record time, and score keepers keep time (Greenberg, 1990). The Scriptures maintain that "to everything there is a season - a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to love and a time to hate ... "(Ecclesiastes, 3). Thus, time is assigned to a specific task or a predetermined event in accordance with a specific purpose. This article will explore different ideas related to how seniors can improve the way they spend time and maximize their positive impact on the next generation -- in other words, how seniors can become better time-binders.

An Aging Society -- Socio-Demographic Trends and Time-Binding Opportunities

The general semantics formulation, time-binding, concerns our human ability to use language and other symbols to store and pass on knowledge, so that each new generation can benefit from earlier discoveries and start from where the previous generation left off. The concept of time-binding has assumed special significance in view of the unprecedented expansion of the aging population. Demographic forecasts predict that the aging population will continue to increase significantly in the twenty-first century. America is steadily growing older as more people are living longer and more are celebrating their centenarian birthdays. It is predicted that by 2030, one out of every five persons (20%) will be over 60 years old (Hooyman and Kiyak, 1996). Moreover, as the 75 million "baby boomers" who were born between 1946 and 1964 "come of age," the number of older persons will significantly increase into what has been described as an "age wave" and a "gerontocracy."

Another significant demographic trend is the increase of multi-generational families, which may include four- and five-generation families. This growing phenomenon is a consequence of extended longevity, in addition to higher divorce rates and remarriages, since the longer the members of a particular generation live on, the more likely it is that they will be living among subsequent generations. Consequently, opportunities for time-binding will multiply as younger and older generations engage in time-sharing.

In our post-industrial (or post-modern) society research no longer focuses exclusively on the pathology associated with aging, nor exclusively on what is possible despite aging. It also investigates what is possible because of aging, given the potential and opportunity for creativity during the advanced years. There is no denial of the "problems" that occur in later life. However, research is focusing more on the possibilities, the strengths, and the opportunities of inter-generational sharing.

Longevity has heralded a new era of shared opportunities for intergenerational time-binding. Older volunteers are engaged as readers and storytellers in elementary schools, as career counselors and tutors in high schools, and as associates in colleges. Older and younger volunteers share hours of community service in local neighborhoods as well as in health facilities. Children are teaching English to their newly arrived ethnic grandparents and they provide instruction in computer science to their parents. Grandparents are increasingly assuming responsibility for childcare in working families as well as in homes of divorced parents. The proverbial "empty nest" is intermittently filled with adult children returning to live with aging parents or grandparents. These time-sharing experiences provide transmission of inter-generational values and culture that extend beyond the lifetime of individual family members.

Cultural Attitudes Toward Aging

In various traditional societies such as Asian and Biblical cultures, older persons tend to be regarded with reverence, and are often respected as "visionaries" and "persons of wisdom" in the transmission of culture from generation to generation. …

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