As two of my grandkids approach their 18th birthdays, I find myself marvelling at the swift passage of time. These young adults are now at the crossroads of making crucial decisions about their futures—selecting universities, mapping out careers, and embarking on the journey of shaping their destinies. Reflecting on my own 18th year, which seems like a distant memory from a bygone era, I recognize the common tendency for older generations to criticize the young, believing that they do not possess the ambition nor the requisite skills to surmount the obstacles that lie ahead.

It is true, that in my day, many of us were thrust into responsibilities at an earlier age. Completing high school often meant joining the workforce, and by our early twenties, marriage and parenthood became commonplace. This contrasts sharply with contemporary views on the timing of marriage and starting a family. But in truth, the challenges and dynamics of life back in the 1960s, for young people, were neither easier nor harder than those of today; they were simply different. As I observe my grandkids, I can’t help but reflect on the ‘now’ and the ‘then’. The pace of progress, fuelled by technology, has reshaped the landscape of opportunities and impediments. Will the young successfully meet society’s future challenges?

The 1960s, often nostalgically referred to as the “good old days,” were characterized by face-to-face conversations, handwritten letters, and the distinctive ring-ring of landline phones affixed to kitchen walls—convenient yet devoid of any privacy. Fast-forward to the present, where teenagers communicate faster than an espresso-fuelled cheetah on roller skates. Thanks to smartphones, social media, and instant messaging, they live in a world where in the blink of an eye, one could miss a thousand Facebook posts, three Tik Toks, and at least one cat video – essential nutrients for the modern teenager.

Back in my day, technology was limited. There were no personal computers, no internet, just television and radio. It’s a miracle we survived without the wonders of Google. Nowadays, technology is as essential as oxygen. Cell phones, i-Pads, computers – these gadgets are practically the co-pilots in the teenage journey of life. Without them, they’d be lost.

Socializing in the 1960s meant physical gatherings at school, community events, or local spots. Contrastingly, today’s social life resembles a digital circus complete with social media platforms, online gaming, and virtual hangouts.

Our music was all about the Beatles and rock ‘n’ roll. Now, teenagers have a musical buffet at their fingertips, thanks to streaming services. They don’t even need to leave their rooms to be culturally enlightened. Video games, streaming services, and websites have become the sacred trinity of entertainment.

Fashion in the 1960s meant tie-dye and bell-bottoms. Today, fashion trends are influenced by pop culture, online influencers, and a fashion industry that can’t commit to a style for more than five minutes.

When I was a teenager, education was all about textbooks and libraries. Today, it’s a wild ride of online resources, virtual classrooms, and interactive learning experiences. The only thing constant is the eternal struggle to get homework completed on time.

Activism in the 60s involved physical participation in protests and civil rights movements. Today, teenagers champion causes through social media, wielding hashtags and memes as their weapons for change.

And let’s not forget part-time jobs. We did it for pocket money. Today, teenagers still work part-time jobs, but there’s a twist – internships, volunteer work, and skill-building for future careers. They’re basically CEOs-in-training, juggling high school and career aspirations like circus performers, and the only safety net they have is the Wi-Fi signal.

So yes, times have changed and so must the human race, if we are to survive. Will these young adults be effective leaders of our society in the future, or is the world destined to go to hell in a handbasket under their guardianship? A quote attributed to Socrates (469-399 BC) aptly captures this timeless sentiment, highlighting how skepticism toward the youth has endured across the ages.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority: they show disrespect for elders, and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.”

Remember how the older generations of our day, thought rock n roll, the twist and Elvis were corrupting our minds and souls and heaven help society when we were at the helm. But like all generations before us, we adapted, survived and thrived.

So, as my grandkids’ generation stands at the intersection of tradition and transformation, I wish them the wisdom to honour the lessons of the past while fearlessly forging new paths. May they navigate this ever-changing world with courage, compassion, and a profound sense of purpose. We, as parents and grandparents, have provided them with roots, and now it is time for us to give them wings and let them soar.