Perhaps the most important outcome of the computer age is the reliance of older people to learn from the young. By examining various aspects of society during the first decade and a half of the 21st century, one can clearly see the trend of younger folks teaching their elders.
Nowhere is this practice more evident than in the music business. Just a month ago, veteran rocker Chrissy Hynde released her first solo album at age 62. Her choice of using 39 year old Bjorn Yttling as her producer could not have been better. The younger producer brings in a fresh approach along with a more developed understanding of technology, which teamed with Hynde’s long experience form the perfect combination. The result is Stockholm, the year’s best album so far.
Another music veteran took the same approach ten years ago, when 72 year old Loretta Lynn paired herself in the studio with 29 year old a Jack White. Together, the two made Van Lear Rose, one of Rolling Stone’s top albums of that year.
Four years later Roky Erickson, a 62 year old rock veteran, joined Okkervil River’s Wil Sheff to record a comeback album after nearly three decades of retirement. Any listener of True Love Cast Out All Evil could easily tell that the 36 year old Sheff was able to teach Erickson some of the important technological advances in music, as well as bring a fresh perspective that would have been impossible with a producer of Erickson’s own generation.
Even the most successful songwriter of all time has benefited from the assistance of a much younger producer. Seven years after turning 64, Paul McCartney chose a producer nearly 30 years his junior. The result was the album simply called New which, thanks to the production of 43 year old Giles Martin, was McCartney’s most critically acclaimed album since the 1980s.
More important than the entertainment world, the field of education has also seen improvement when combining the experience of older teachers with the eagerness and technologically-savvy younger colleagues. As a high school instructor for thirty years, I have personally witnessed first hand the improved learning environment in classrooms co-taught by an older and a younger facilitator. Students easily identify with the technology-based instruction from the younger teacher, while at the same time gaining the knowledge imparted by the well-seasoned teacher.
I have seen similar benefits of the combination of youth and experience in medical practices, law firms, churches, and even in sports. Just last year, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series with a perfect mix of youngsters and veterans. Rookie Xavier Bogerts was among the Most Valuable Player candidates, as was the grizzled veteran Davide “Big Papi” Ortiz.
The only aspect of society lacking the necessary interaction between older and younger is in politics. The Supreme Court, perhaps the most powerful governing body in the world, has an average age of about 70. The legislative branch is older than it has ever been, with 60 the average of for senators and 55 for congressmen. Barak Obama has been one of our youngest presidents, but he was still in his late forties when he took office.
The federal government needs to remove the outdated constitutional barriers that prevent young people from political power, especially the current minimum age requirements for senators, representatives and presidents. Those who make the laws for our country should embrace the collaborative efforts of young and old, which have reaped so much success in the areas of music, education, health, and religion. Instead, the median age of our political leaders keeps growing, right along with its degrees of dysfunction.