15 Things That Seniors Can Learn From Teenagers


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If you're a senior, you've accumulated a lifetime's worth of knowledge, wisdom and experience. It might be easy for you to blow off teenagers, who were born in the age of the internet, as self-involved, screen-obsessed know-nothings who substitute social media for the drama of real life — and you might not understand why so many selfies could possibly be necessary. The truth, however, is that you might be surprised about how much you could learn by making an effort to tune into America's youth, who are just unrefined versions of tomorrow's seniors.

grandmother and granddaughter using a laptop
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Seniors are disproportionately targeted by internet scammers, and they could take a lesson or two in online prudence from members of the digital generation. According to online transaction provider FirstData, 81 percent of millennials, including teenagers, never open attachments from people they don't know, and roughly the same number never click links in emails from people they don't know.
senior man making contactless payment with smartphone in cafe
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Millennials were early adopters of peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps long before they hit the mainstream. But now, both Generation Xers and baby boomers are using apps like Venmo, Zelle, Square, and Google Pay for everything from settling restaurant tabs to paying for movie tickets. If you were unaware of the technology, or if you simply didn't think you need it, consider the speed, simplicity, security and convenience P2P payment apps provide.
scissors cutting a credit card
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According to Fortune, millennials are shunning credit cards in numbers large enough to disrupt the industry, and that number includes older teenagers. While credit cards can be good and helpful, misuse can be dangerous — especially for seniors. Studies show that more and more older Americans are carrying revolving debt much later in life, and when they enter retirement in the red, seniors often find that credit-card debt can quickly gobble up big chunks of their retirement savings, forcing them to work longer or crimp their lifestyle.
senior couple sitting on sofa using laptop at home together
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Warren Buffet is the most successful investor in history, and one of his cardinal rules is to invest only in companies you understand. Millennials seem to be heeding this advice. Younger investors tend to buy stocks issued by companies they use the most and understand the best, including Apple, Amazon, Dropbox, and Spotify.
senior hispanic couple riding bikes in park
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Teenagers and other millennials are far more likely to utilize the sharing economy than other age groups. This means that instead of buying things, they tend to take advantage of services that offer all the same access without any of the burdens of ownership. Music is one of the best examples, but young Americans are also more likely — and especially wise — to take advantage of the sharing economy when it comes to depreciating assets like cars and jewelry.
Uber car service in New York City
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More than half of young Americans have a side hustle — that's millennial speak for a second, unofficial job they work from time to time. Older Americans could benefit as much as anyone from picking up a side hustle, which could be anything from online tutoring to driving an Uber. A second revenue stream increases income while also providing some security in case of primary job loss.
senior couple selecting fresh herbs at the grocery store
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Millennials, including teenagers, are overwhelmingly concerned with sustainability, and huge percentages of them report a willingness to switch to brands that conform to their concerns about environmental health and corporate responsibility. Seniors can follow their lead and become good stewards of the Earth, all while consuming healthier products by patronizing only the brands and businesses that earn your dollars by prioritizing ethics as much as profits.
people voting in a government election
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For generations, voters had the options of choosing a Democrat, a Republican, or throwing their vote away on a third-party protest choice. Today's young adults, however, are poised to change all that. As America's soon-to-be largest voting block, the huge numbers of millennials who want a third-party option just might get their wish. For generations, seniors have been taken for granted by both political parties as reliable voters concerned with just a few key issues. If you're frustrated with the same old pair of choices, join the younger generation by boldly demanding change at the ballot box.
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From women's rights to civil rights, few social movements have succeeded that didn't feature swarms of young people at the forefront. From immigration and gay rights to war and the environment, today's teens are as politically active, engaged and aware as America's youth has ever been. As a senior, you could bring invaluable wisdom and experience to these battles. Combine that with the energy of youth, and real change is possible in your lifetime.
beautiful senior woman looking at laptop
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The dark side of the internet gets bigger everyday, and the anonymity it provides offers perfect cover for legions of trolls and online attack dogs who use the web to sow division by spewing racism, hate, and anger. One of the biggest emerging trends in teen communication is positive memeing — an attempt to flood the internet with inspiration, good-natured humor, tidbits, stories and quotes that are meant to uplift and empower instead of hurt and demean.
senior group meditating in the park
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According to ABC News, more teens are meditating than ever before. Those who engage in the ancient practice of self-care tend to develop greater emotional control and achieve heightened relaxation and reduced anxiety. Aging is stressful, and since it costs nothing to get started, meditation is one youth movement that might be worth joining.
group of multi-ethnic seniors smiling together
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Many experts worry that a dizzying array of new media platforms has made today's teens closed off, less happy, and less prepared for adulthood than previous generations. One silver lining, however, is that early exposure to the larger world through outlets like social media have made today's teens far more tolerant and inclusive than older generations, who tend to be set in their ways and driven by preconceived notions.
senior woman picking up trash in park
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Research has found that teens can benefit from volunteering and enjoy improved self-esteem, reduced anxiety, less depression, and a sense of purpose. Seniors can enjoy the same psychological and social benefits with fulfilling and productive activities.
cigarette end
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When surveyed in 1991, about 27 percent of teenagers admitted to being smokers. Today's teens are apparently far more conscious of their hearts and lungs, and the smell of their hair, hands, and clothing. Just 9 percent smoke today. If you're a smoker who thinks you're too old to change, join the 91 percent of teenagers who shun the nasty, deadly habit.
group of people eating dinner toasting glasses of water
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There's nothing wrong with the occasional drink, but too much of a good thing benefits neither your health nor your productivity. Fewer than 1 teenager in 3 reported currently using alcohol. That's a huge drop from 1991, when more than half of the teenagers polled admitted to drinking.

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