Ah, youth. We tend to remember fondly our earlier days and simpler times. And while experts have documented nostalgia's distinct psychological and physical benefits, we also know there are big ways life is better now than before. Civil rights. Health care. Seat belts and air bags.
Here at Next Avenue, we appreciate all the progression in culture, health and safety. But we also started to think about the little things that make life now (however complicated it gets) more comfortable than it was when we were kids.
True, gas will never again be $0.30 a gallon, handmade fountain Cokes are hard to come by and playing outside has given way to video games and college prep courses.
But here's our list of 10 things that truly are new and improved. What would you add? Share in the comments below or email us.
1. Free Music Downloads
Tapes and records that could fill the entire backseat of a 1973 Pinto now fit on a device as large as your thumb. You can bring your entire music collection with you, anywhere. Even better, you can relive the music of your youth on YouTube and share your memories with others.
2. No More Bread Bag Shoes
Sen. Joni Ernst's rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address got us thinking about the bread bags so many of us wore on our feet when we were young. We remember slipping them inside our boots to keep dampness out, which kept our feet warm — for awhile — until they got disgustingly clammy. Today, boots have better waterproofing and insulation.
3. We Give a Hoot
Woodsy Owl's plea, Lady Bird Johnson's beautification campaign, The Clean Air Act and other initiatives have resulted in a cleaner, less polluted environment. The air we breathe today is significantly cleaner than it was in 1980.
4. Getting Lost Is a Thing of the Past
It's never been easier to navigate. Forget paper maps, parental arguments and stopping to ask for directions. The boom of GPS, voice navigation and location apps mean you always know where you are. GPS is also helping solve crimes and bluetooth technology can be used to keep tabs on your belongings.
(MORE: Make the Most of Your Car's GPS)
5. The World Got Smaller
International travel has never been easier. Gone are the days of wearing your Sunday best on the plane, frantically searching for an open bank to cash a traveler's check and writting letters on thin blue paper as your only means of communicating with home. Now, travel-bargain sites let you plan your ideal itinerary, and shifting geopolitics have opened up a whole new world of options. Boomers who once braced for air raid drills can enjoy places like Vietnam, Russia — even Cuba!
6. We've Traded our Cigarette Lighters for Smartphones
No more burnt thumbs at concerts. Instead of swaying to Fleetwood Mac with a Bic lighter, you can use your Android or iPhone. Of course, smartphones have delivered countless other efficiencies. Everything from staying fit to keeping your finances in check to ordering a sandwich requires less effort than before. And best of all — we don't need Bics because fewer of us smoke.
7. Online Shopping
Introverts rejoice! No longer is human interaction required to shop, pay bills or fill prescriptions. Whether you avoid the mall at all costs or would just like the option to shop for household items in the comfort of your pajamas once in a while, the Internet is there to meet your needs. Virtual consumer experiences have crept into nearly every industry — even doctor visits can now happen through the Web.
8. More Channels, More Choice
Most boomers grew up with four or fewer TV channels. Now, cable, satellite, on demand and web-only platforms deliver more content to us than the average person could ever consume. The programming variety allows everyone to find something they like and also represents the diversity of viewers in a way that broadcast television during the 1960s and 1970s rarely did.
(MORE: Are You a Binge-Watcher?)
9. Finding Your Niche
Remember when fliers and church basements were the means to rally a group? In the digital age, enthusiasts of all ilks unite with efficient force. Virtual and IRL (in-real-life) communities spring up around any topic, passion or cause using tools like Change.org, Kickstarter and Reddit. Perhaps more powerful are the connections made through Meetup.com — a site that connects neighbors with specific interests and goals.
10. We're Smarter
It's true. Now-famous research from political scientist James Flynn documents that IQ test scores have increased significantly over the past decades. Flynn's research doesn't mean that previous generations were less intelligent, but his findings support the idea that we've trained our minds to do more. Learn more here.