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A meeting between cultures: An Intergeneration Program-Preserving Culture in a Technological Environment
by Edna Aphek


(a lecture, given at the Eshnav [Citizens for Responsible Use of the Internet] conference, June 2002)

I belong to the "Ice Age" generation. When I was a child there was no refrigerator in our home. We had an ice box. We used to carry ice blocks in a Utah cloth, up to third floor where we lived. My generation didn't grow up with such developed technologies as today's youngsters. A telephone was a rare thing and a telephone conversation - a happening.
Even when I grew up a telephone line was hard to get. One had to wait for years to get one. When we were Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah we usually got a watch. My four year old grandchild has a few watches. Only those who were rich, in those days, could afford a transistor radio. I got one the other day buying a 4 litres Coca Cola bottle.
I watched television for the first time when I arrived in the USA, I was twenty five, then.
Until now I don't know how to program a VCR and I became acquainted with a PC only ten years ago.
The tremendous technological changes which flooded our lives in the last fifty or sixty years are very quick and significant. When a new technology and especially one which has to do with communications is created, and becomes wide spread, it brings about changes in tools, in ways of thinking, in social processes and in social structures. The"invasion" of computers into our lives opens up new possibilities and gives room to social mobility.
Computer usage and mastery is mainly in the hands of the young generation, whose status in society has undergone much change with the introduction of the new technologies.
The technological revolution, so it seems, has passed over, the older members in our society, and mainly the Third Agers.
Whereas the older members seem to be living in a "waste Land" as far as technology is concerned, the young ones seem to be born holding the "mouse cord" in their hand.
They speak "high-tech" as their mother tongue and their natural environment is a technological one.

In this situation, the meeting between the two polaric groups, the young ones, the speakers of "High- Tech" and the much older ones for whom the world of computer and the Internet is an unknown land and the language of this land is foreign and difficult, such a meeting is most appropriate.
In this meeting, between the young and the old, it's the young ones who teach the language of the new country , the land of technology, to the old ones.

For the last 5 years I have been implementing a program I initiated and started:
The Intergeneration Program and the New Technologies. In this program young students, grades 5-9, tutor seniors at computer and internet skills and learn from their older students, a chapter in the latter's personal history.
Together they write a digital version of the story; together they scan pictures, albums, documents; search for information on the net as well as in other sources and soon will upload these stories to a designated site , on the internet.
An African proverb says that when an old person dies an entire library is set on fire.
In the intergeneration program we preserve whole libraries, treasured in the minds of the elderly, by the means of the new technologies.

Concurrently with the rapidly changing technological - cultural reality, the demographic reality of the Third Agers changes as well.
The senior population is ever on the rise.
On the one hand our society admires youth, but it also yearns for something that used to be and is gone. One could understand this yearning against the background of the ever changing technology and the incessant innovations. There is a yearning for ever lasting values: there is a feeling of weariness from this rapidity of technological changes and there is a dire desire for holding on to a meaningful narrative, one that will last that won't change in front of our eyes.
It's the Third Agers who could supply us with this narrative which connects between the past and the present, between what used to be a, the present and what is going to be.

The Intergeneration Program started in one school, the Alon School at Mate Yehuda.
Now, almost five years later, it has expanded and is being implemented in many middle schools across the country. I must admit that I am very moved each time I watch the bond created between the new generation and the Third Agers. These meetings endow the two generations with interest and meaning; the postmodern society is a society in which relationships and connections are loose. However, a society draws its strength from the bond between its members: in the Intergeneration Program: Preserving Heritage in a Technological Environment, we strengthen intergeneration connections and existing heritage knowledge and create new connections, where they are lacking. In other words, the program aims at connecting the various sectors and generations in Israeli society and at preserving the stories of the past of its senior members by the new technological skills of its young members.

A meeting of cultures

This meeting between these two groups, very apart age-wise, is also a meeting between two cultures: it's a meeting between a linear-sequential culture, that of the Third Agers, and an associative, multi-directional, skipping and surfing culture of the young ones.
The differences between these two cultures is also the difference between a "real" "here "concrete culture and a virtual one. The Third Agers are members of the "Concrete- Here" culture, whereas the culture of the youngsters is somewhere out there, in Cyberspace. Sitting on a chair in a small limited physical environment, and the spirit roams in the unlimited space of the cyber: visiting museums, meeting people, going on expeditions and much more.
This meeting is also a meeting between cultures that treat time differently:
The information age is an age of immediacy, constant updating and simultaneity.
I can hardly do one thing at a time. Today's youngsters use the computer, watch television, listen to music and prepare their homework, and all that simultaneously.

The meeting between the Third Agers, the seniors and the "Craving for the New", the young ones, mitigates the franticness of the young, refutes prejudice and encourages and fosters patience and tolerance. As for the older members in our society , it energizers and stimulates their minds and zest for life, opens up new worlds and brings back joy of life as well as a feeling of belonging.

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