Going beyond personal nostalgia in admiring the past
What keeps nostalgia from leading to regression is putting yourself in the mind of someone who, back in the good old days, was as old as you are now. Then you're not just pining for a return to how you remember those times, but discovering that your current self too would enjoy those times more than the present times. It really was a better world for everyone to live in -- young, middle-aged, and elderly -- not just a time that you have biased warm fuzzy memories of.
Now that a lot of people who were children in the 1980s are in their 30s, they should take a stronger look at how much better it was for 30-somethings back then, not only for small kids. It may, however, make you even more depressed at how bad things have gotten.
You won't be prepared for it either by hearing people now in their 50s and 60s complaining about how cool it was to be a 20 or 30-something in the '80s. They'll readily agree to that assessment, and provide you with lots of examples once you bring it up. But you're not supposed to get spontaneously nostalgic about how cool you were in your 30s, and how boring the society is now. It's like they're afraid of hearing, "Well, you were over 30, so how cool could life have really been for you?" Due to this silence, it's something you have to figure out on your own.
But people in their child-rearing years used to have quite a social life, before they decided to lock themselves indoors all day with their nuclear family. Although I don't have kids, I still see how much aggravation helicopter parenting adds to the lives of those who do. You get cabin fever, and you're not allowed much of an outlet since after all they are your family. We don't even have cathartic movies anymore like Vacation and The Shining.
Parents of Millennials get so snippy with them, constantly pester them via cell phone ("What were you doing when I called 15 minutes ago???"), and result to impersonal, emotionally cool, and rational-intellectual ways of interacting with their children. All signs that they're always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, doing whatever it takes to hold themselves together.
During the heyday of New Wave, my mother used to go out dancing with her close friend every weekend. She was in her late 20s and had three children -- me, around 3 or 4, and my brothers who were 1 or 2. Sometimes my dad would go, and more often he'd stay home. And both parents used to go over to other grown-ups' houses for "dinner parties," whose main attraction was actually booze. (My parents say it was not uncommon for party guests to drive home drunk in those days, something that the supposedly reckless and hormone-blinded teenagers today almost never do.)
Also, if neither parent was home to look after us, they hired a... shoot, what were they called? I know I saw them in movies before... oh that's it, a babysitter!
You don't see that level of sociality even among unmarried and childless adults today, who would rather stay at home and plug themselves into one of their many devices instead.
And of course with church attendance so much lower than it was during the most recent religious revival, grown-ups have abandoned one of the most reliable ways to get to know one another and create enduring social bonds. I distinctly remember what ear-to-ear smiles the grown-ups used to wear when they greeted each other before and after church. Daily life was a lot more dangerous and topsy-turvy then, so being near those who would get your back and help you through your troubles must have made them feel blessed.
Don't forget how much time the elderly used to spend hanging out with one another at the mall.
There are many more aspects of adult life that could be discussed, but I'll end it there for now, and come back to it now and then. Perhaps the easiest way to sense this for yourself (if you're of a certain age) is to look back at how much great music there used to be for adults -- not corny, and not ponderous, but sophisticated, and in an organic rather than phony way. Here is an earlier post on that topic, which I only feel stronger about more than a year later, having picked up Graceland by Paul Simon, So by Peter Gabriel, It's My Life by Talk Talk, and Diamond Life by Sade. Forget about being 7 years old again in the '80s -- I'd kill to be in the over-30 crowd back then too.