“Somehow we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, a knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future.”
- Margaret Mead
Interaction between the generations is not only a great way to pass along knowledge and wisdom – it’s also fun.
People of varying ages can learn a lot from each other if everyone keeps an open mind and appreciates the unique challenges and opportunities that come with the territory. This might take the form of grandchildren teaching their elders how to use technology or sharing contemporary favorites in entertainment. Likewise, young ones can discover obscure songs or movies that are just as powerful today as they were decades ago, possibly observe timeless traditions and ways of doing things that have become lost art-forms.
The great challenge is developing a better understanding of others, which may involve the collision of values when members of different generations work and learn together.
Does the WWII vet who hasn’t spoken to many people about the horrors of war he witnessed have anything at all in common with a teenager prone to oversharing every detail of her day on social media? Can someone whose attitudes about race, gender and sexual orientation were formed during less diverse times talk intelligently with someone who grew up learning about the Civil Rights Era from history books?
When people come together, it helps to dispel inaccurate and negative stereotypes.
Organizational development scholar Dr Morris Massey said, “We don’t have to agree with the values of different generations, but we can strive to understand the mind-sets of different generations and how each group sees the world based on their experiences.”
Whereas a senior may prefer face to face or written communication, their children and grandchildren may primarily reach out via email or text message. Bridging such gaps requires flexibility in your thinking.
We are shaped by the events of our lives, and history happens in cycles. Baby Boomers, for example, probably had their values influenced by parents who grew up during the Great Depression, so they may find common ground with Generation Xers who remember double-digit inflation or new college graduates who have struggled to find good jobs since 2007.
The benefit of intergenerational interaction for seniors is reducing isolation and poverty among elders, who in turn improve the lives of children, youth, and older adults by sharing their insight on the world as tutors, role models, or mentors. Through regular contact, they can become advocates for one another and unite with solutions for illiteracy, environmental issues, health issues, crime prevention, and much more.
According to the organization Generations United, such intergenerational activities allow seniors to remain active and engaged, which contributes to living longer with better physical and mental health. They enjoy a higher quality of life by remaining engaged in their communities.
“Older adults who regularly volunteer with children burn 20% more calories per week, experience fewer falls, are less reliant on canes, and perform better on a memory test than their peers,” the organization states. “Older adults with dementia experience more positive effect during interactions with children.”
The benefit for others? Developing skills, values, and a sense of citizenship. Historical and cultural traditions are preserved.
“Together we are stronger,” states Generations United.
At Regency Senior Living, daily life is an intergenerational activity as younger staff help to care for seniors and those requiring daily help with tasks. We appreciate that our residents have a lot of wisdom to share with us and are a value to society by their efforts to contribute in whatever capacity they can.
The Charmm’d Foundation offers a checklist for communicating to different generations that can be viewed at http://www.charmmdfoundation.org/resource-library/effective-communication/checklist-communicating-different-generations
Jeff Clay, Vice President of Business Development at of Regency Senior Living, said his group recruits many volunteers who bring a variety of abilities to work alongside residents.
“For these volunteers, both young and old, we create opportunities for inter-generational experiences,” Clay said. “We understand that many schools and colleges require volunteer hours for their students, and we would love to support those efforts. Call today and speak with our Activities Director to learn of ways you can begin a fulfilling way of working with seniors!”
To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
Written by: Katie Hanley