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)
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
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
They speak "high-tech" as their mother tongue and
their natural environment is a technological one.
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.
the last 5 years I have been implementing a program I initiated
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
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.
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.
meeting of cultures
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
The information age is an age of immediacy, constant updating
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.
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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