As we grow older and move through each stage of the life course, we build relationships with peers who are sharing our experiences and going through similar things at the same time.
For this reason, it often ends up that our friends and strong relationships exist within the bounds of our generation or within the same general age group as us. Our communities are divvied up by age, but the truth is that there are many positive outcomes that can come as a result of creating circumstances in which people from different generations and age groups can come together, learn from one another, and build meaningful relationships that extend beyond the boundaries of generations.
The young and the old share more in common than it might seem at first glance. At either ends of the life course both youth and the elderly exist outside of the realm of adulthood’s objective productivity upon which our modern societies place so much value. It seems that those who are young and those who are old have the purest opportunity to interact with the essence of being alive, appreciating each moment as it is in a unique and important way that separates both groups from the unyieldingly busy and stressful life of those who are in between.
Through the reciprocal nature of relationships, each age group helps to support the others in valuable and meaningful ways. Communities are built on intergenerational webs that connect everyone to each other, but we might not always understand just how valuable nurturing intergenerational relationships can be for all parties, including seniors.
Activities to Do Together
Relationships are built and strengthened over time as feelings of connectedness build and people begin to feel more bonded to one another. The following are some activities in which seniors can engage that may help to foster the growth of intergenerational relationships:
- Sharing/Teaching Skills and Hobbies
- Cooking/Baking Together
- Reading to One Another
- Talking About Heritage and History
- Learning to Use New Technology
- Writing Letters Back and Forth
- Playing Board Games or Cards
- Talking About Meaningful Topics
Benefits Both Ways
One of the things that is so deeply special and unique about intergenerational relationships is that people in different stages of their lives have both things to contribute and things to benefit from engaging in relationships that cross generational gaps. Seniors can help children or younger folks to build a better sense of who they are, understand where they came from, help them to develop social skills, make them feel special, instill them with feelings of confidence, expose them to new skills, and foster their ability to better relate to older people. In a reciprocal way, seniors can also reap deeply meaningful things from relationships with younger people:
- Sense of Purpose
- Cognitive Stimulation
- Feeling Youthful Again
- Chance to Learn New Skills
- Greater Energy
- Reduced Feelings of Isolation
- Lowered Anxiety and Depression
- Feelings of Joy and Freedom
- Physical, Mental, and Emotional Exercise
- Chance to Pass on Stories and Wisdom
- Opportunity to Learn About the Changing World
Seniors have a lot to offer young minds, but also have a lot to gain from them. Creating opportunities in which seniors have the chance to build connections with younger people, whether they be relatives or not, can help them to live more fulfilling lives.