'That and Yoga Pants.' Older Folks Share The Most Surprising Social Changes They've Witnessed In Their lifetime

The twenty-first century has seen an unprecedented amount of technological and social change. The rate at which things advance seems to be growing exponentially. Living in such fast times, it's always helpful to turn to our elders for some perspective.

Here are some of the most surprising things older folks have witnessed in their lifetime.

Many thanks to the Redditor who posed this question. You can check out more answers from the source at the end of the article!

1/26. Smoking dope in public. We used to have to hide in a room and put wet towels under the door.


2/26. Homosexuality. I'm 50 and I've known I'm bi since my crush on David Cassidy when I was 7 years old. I gave up on the love of my life when I was in my early 20's because I couldn't see a future where a same sex relationship would ever be acceptable. I also wanted children and my state (Florida) didn't allow gay adoption back then.


3/26. Tattoos, body mods, face piercing, and ear gauges. When I was growing up, stuff like that was an instant sign of serious intellectual and character inferiority.


4/26. Way past 50, one of the biggest changes is now many people live together without marriage. Sometimes having children without marriage.

Also smoking which was the norm, is now almost unacceptable. I just hope they don't ban drinking in my lifetime! (ha ha)


5/26. Texan here, b. mid-1950's.

Same sex marriage. Also interracial marriage. Good things, IMHO.


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6/26. I'm 70. I never thought mismatched and untucked and just generally sloppy dressing would be socially acceptable. I've been doing it since long before it was fashionable, and I like the change.


7/26. I'm going to turn it around. I'm 55 now but I remember going to the south of France in 1980 and seeing loads of topless women. I figured that in a couple of years all women would be topless on the beach, and in ten years totally naked. If anything women have started to cover up more now.


8/26. I'm 56.

To not smoke. When I was a kid in the 60s, everyone smoked. You watched a movie through the blue haze of the 165 cigarettes burning in the audience. You sat in the laughably small "non-smoking" section and had to endure acrid burning smells throughout your dinner.

You couldn't get the smell out of your clothes. Patients and their guests could smoke in their rooms and the lounge, but staff had to go to the smoking room, which doubled as the staff room where we ate lunch. I started on a pulmonary ward and patients with oxygen were allowed to smoke if they "were careful"!

Being a slob in public. My mom stopped wearing hats and gloves pretty early in my life, but she would not let you out of the house without appropriate, clean matching clothes, shined shoes (we had flip flops in the summer) our hair brushed and braided if necessary and a coat in the winter. Going to the store in your pjs or half dressed? Krrrrazy!

And swearing on TV. I was in school and not really watching TV in the late 70s and early 80s. I came up for air in 1986, and choked on my drink the first time I heard someone say "ass" on TV. Now stuff that would have been forbidden in any conversation is casually tossed around.

Eating everywhere. No one ate on the street, at their desk or in the car when I was little. You sat down, and paid attention to the meal. Obviously there were no cell phones to look at during the meal. There was not a lot of snacking and as far as I remember, you only bought junk food for school lunch treat or for a party. Things like chips, pretzels or pop.

Also, get off my lawn.


9/26. Tattoos on anything but sailors' upper arms.

Piercings of things other than women's earlobes.

Masturbation. (I'm sure we all did it, but we didn't admit to it.)


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10/26. I'm way beyond fifty and back in the day being pregnant without being married was a big deal. I know, I went through it. I "had" to get married, even then, my family sort of shunned me. No baby shower, for example. Ten years later I was a divorced single mother on my own and happy.


11/26. The wild violence on prime time TV that would have demanded at least an R if not an NC-17 rating just 15 years ago. And still showing a nipple even by accident anyplace makes people flip.


12/26. Pube control. It's a whole new world out there.


13/26. The constant supervision of children. Born in the 60's. We'd spend hours and hours outside with no adult supervision. You weren't allowed to be inside and underfoot. You walked everywhere.

The idea of getting a ride somewhere from your parents was ludicrous. On weekends, you were out the door after breakfast, and didn't have to be home until the streetlights came on. In the meantime, our parents had little to no idea of where we were or what we were up to. Also, most 'after school activities' were for the kids only; only weird kid's parents came to music lessons, sporting events, dance lessons, etc.


14/26. Opposition to free speech that is occurring on college campuses around the country. There were smatterings of it when I graduated (class of 1984), but today's complete lack of understanding concerning the need to protect all speech (especially offensive speech) seems to have spread to large numbers of people.


15/26. That smoking would become so restricted in so many places. When I was young, if we had dinner guests and some were smokers, they smoked in our house without even asking.


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16/26. Mostly all on social media:

Narcissism (selfies, effusive self-praise, inability to consider opposing viewpoints)

Vanity (fictional perfect lives, boasting and one-upping about your perfect relationship, perfect job, perfect vacation)

Oversharing ('private' arguments in public, posting how much you love your partner instead of...uhh...telling them privately.)


17/26. Talking on a phone in a public place. Obviously the cell phone is fairly new technology, but public wired phones in the past were nearly always in private places (RIP phone booths).


18/26. I'm going to say something that is likely to irritate, because it sounds obvious at first glance: rudeness of all kinds.

People used to at least hesitate - if not outright be shamed out of -- all kinds of overbearing boundary-pushing.

I guess I'm just talking about respecting boundaries in public spaces.

Such as:

playing personal music (so that others can hear) in natural spaces that we're supposed to share (parks, beaches, etc.)

Being really loud - swearing in front of children (especially at sporting events) Wearing super-revealing clothes -- I'm talking everything on full display, during the day. I could go on..... but I doubt many people agree, so I'll just take the thumbs down and move on.


19/26. Mid conversation people tend to their phones.

Starting to read the newspaper while somebody talks to you was a pretty big insult. That certainly still is.

That and yoga pants.


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20/26. My mother always says our generation (the boomers) made shacking up respectable. The younger generation just takes it for granted. But it used to be a huge thing of shame.


21/26. This is kind of backwards in the sense that it's something that's become socially unacceptable rather than acceptable, but one big difference is the attitude toward littering. When my sister and I were kids in the '60s, our uncle would take us and our cousins to the drive-in. We'd get our food, then drive around the countryside eating and enjoying the scenery. When the burgers and fries were eaten, he would call on us to pass all the wrappers and empty bags forward, and he'd scrunch 'em up and pitch 'em out the window.

It's a poor defense to say that everyone did it, but everyone did. Not all the changes in the last 50 years have been for the better, but the attitude toward littering certainly is. Now I wouldn't even think of tossing a gum wrapper out the window.


22/26. Sexual scenes on TV. I'm 63. When I was very young, movies and TV didn't show a husband and wife going to bed in the same bed. They always had twin beds. Also "fuck" was never heard in media.


23/26. 52 y.o. The lack of kids playing on the street and riding their bikes around the neighbourhood. Staying in your room all day and not venturing outside or visiting friends would be something that an ill person would do.


24/26. This is too late posted to be seen, but I'm shocked at the amount of people well into their 20's still considered to be children. It seems like (no proof, of course) they've been deprived of emotional privacy and the right to make bad decisions on the way to getting there. Homelessness, drug abuse and obesity aren't the issue with me, it's the amount of it and the casual acceptance of it that amazes me. So many wasted lives.


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25/26. In my (wealthy suburban, Connecticut) high school in the 70's, it was 100% NOT acceptable to refuse a drug you were offered, a car ride even with a dunk driving, sex with a steady SO....I could go on. My son and his friends are in high school now and strike me and and my peers as much tamer than we were. Thank God. A lot of us were pressured into a lot of crap we didn't want and knew we weren't ready for.


26/26. Over 60 here. What I find troubling is the state to which political discourse has sunk to. I was a Reagan Republican but both parties, though they may have held differing views, conducted themselves like statesmen. Things said today would have humiliated a politician decades ago. The party I was a member of is unrecognizable to me now.


Bonus: I'm going to be 58 very soon, and I am surprised by the number of things people have mentioned. Tattoos? I got a tattoo in 1979, all the girls where I worked were getting them, either a rose or a butterfly. Had multiple ear piercings too, so they wouldn't be too surprising either. Mixed race marriage? That was on tv, no big deal. It's not that much of a stretch to imagine same sex marriage thirty five years in the future. Risque clothing? I was pretty conservative, yet wore hot pants and mini skirts to school, never heard of anyone being sent home for their clothing. I do remember when Amy Carter was admonished in the press for bringing a book to a White House dinner, so I guess that compares with reading your phone at the table. Becoming blase about heightened security everywhere is about the only thing I can imagine being surprised by.



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When you're a kid most adults will tell you one thing or another is "cool" and "fun." Odds are you're too young to form any kind of opinion on the matter one way or another. You're a kid, right? You don't know what you're eating for breakfast. However, when you get older and form that larger worldview, you realize that yeah, maybe that one time when you were a kid actually wasn't fun.

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