Grow old along with me!
The Best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all nor be afraid.’ —Robert Browning
There are few places today where people of different ages interact. With the demise of the extended family, the segregation between generations has gotten worse. As a result, younger generations don’t receive direction and advice from their elders.
Heritage, stories, and wisdom are not passed on. It’s no longer possible for every family to care for aging parents or grandparents at home. However, much can be done to bridge the gap and bring generations together.
To build stronger, healthier, and happier communities, we need to encourage more intergenerational interaction. The elderly may not be as productive as the younger people who have displaced them in the workplace, but they still have a lot to give.
Young people can benefit by caring for the elderly or simply spending time with them. The friendship and mentoring relationship that develop have the potential to transform a young person’s life. Children, youth, and young adults can break the loneliness, isolation, and boredom that so many seniors suffer. These bonds between young and old are the glue that hold communities and society together.
Here are a few ways to build intergenerational connections:
- Intergenerational arts programs: uses the skills of the community’s older artists in schools and other community settings.
- Community service programs: Youth serve the elderly in a variety of settings nursing homes, adult day care facilities, and individual residences.
- Drug prevention programs for high-risk youth involving older people as mentors to students.
- Intergenerational acting ensembles address social issues through improvisational theater.
- Students provide respite to families caring for frail elders.
- Older students help elders enhance their reading and writing skills.
- Students provide language, literacy and citizenship tutoring for elderly immigrants and refugees.
- Generation clubs facilitating long-term, one-on-one relationships between urban youth and isolated elders.
- After school programs bringing a group of older adults into a school or community site to work one-on-one students reading below grade level or are academically at risk.
- High school students are linked to homebound elderly to learn their life history.
- Intergenerational language lessons from seniors who are native speakers of foreign languages help students improve their ability to speak and understand foreign languages.
- Link with nursing homes and hospitals with the purpose of helping students clarify their career goals and to help recruit youth into the field of gerontology.