May 11, 2022 | Mary R. Hawk, Esq.
My son attended a Montessori school for the first 9 years of his educational career. One thing that stood out to me during his tenure there is that Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori educational method, insisted on grouping children of different ages together in one classroom. For example, the first-, second- and third-graders are all in the same classroom called “Elementary 1.” The older children mentor the younger children; the younger children inspire different kinds of learning in the older children. Children need to learn how to interact with other children of different ages, because it will relate directly to their abilities to cope in society as an adult.
When we become adults and get jobs and navigate the “real world,” we are not going to be exclusively interacting only with people our own age. Think about it, at any job you have ever had, there were probably some employees and customers who were around your age, some who were older than you, and some who were younger than you. You had to get along with all of them!
Ageism is, unfortunately alive and well. And it goes both ways. Anti-ageism activist Ashton Applewhite defines ageism as “a dominant group using its power to oppress or exploit or silence or simply ignore people who are much older or significantly younger. We experience ageism any time someone assumes we’re ‘too old’ for something, instead of finding out who we are and what we’re capable of.” I’m sure you’ve seen older adults belittling “Millennials;” or younger adults ignoring or “poo-pooing” what an older adult has to say. Those in the Baby Boomer generation may not have much in common with Gen-Zers, but be assured, in the business world and probably in your own community associations, those generations need to not only get along, but often live side by side in relative peace.
We can all take a page out of Maria Montessori’s book and realize that we need to value the worth, contributions, and expertise of persons in all age groups. They all have something to contribute. The Board of Directors of the ill-fated Theranos corporation learned that lesson. That Board, which was overseeing what was touted as ground-breaking medical technology, was comprised of six, Baby Boomer, Caucasian men. The Board was comprised of, among others, two former United States Secretaries of State, a retired Marine Corps four-star general; and a former Secretary of Defense. What did they know about ground-breaking blood testing? Not enough it turns out. Some of the brightest young scientific minds coming out of graduate and post graduate bioengineering and microbiology programs knew long before the Theranos Board knew, that the technology was implausible and doomed to failure. Those were the people that the Theranos Board members should have recruited for their own Board, to get a wide range of expertise and contribution.
This lesson is instructive for your Community Association Boards of Directors too. The wider variety of persons you have on your Boards — not only in gender, race, and lifestyle, but also in age – the greater your pool of expertise will be. The more variety you will get in terms of suggestions and offered solutions. It will also help in peacemaking in the community – Board members of various ages will have knowledge of the “markets” they are serving. Younger board members can relate to younger homeowners; older board members can relate to older homeowners.
So, step away from ageism and give time and opportunity to people of all ages, including the Millennials (born 1981-1995), the Gen-Zers (born 1996-2010), the Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945), the Greatest Generation (born 1901–1927), and even Generation Alpha (born 2011-2025)!
Mary R. Hawk is a partner and shareholder with the law firm of Porges, Hamlin, Knowles & Hawk, PA, where she practices in the Community Association area of law. She is a past-president and current president of Community Associations Institute – West Florida chapter, and is a frequent speaker and instructor for CAI.