The Value of Intergenerational Relationships

It was about 10:30 on a Friday at a Panera restaurant several weeks ago. A 3 year-old girl was sitting at a table with her mother. A lady in her 70’s came up and said to the little girl "Hi there, what’s your name?’ The 3 year-old responded "I’m Amy. ""Well, Amy you certainly are pretty in that dress you’re wearing. Are you having fun?" the older woman asked.

The lady and the child connected and they proceeded to talk for about 5 more minutes. That short conversation made both their days.

The Impact of Five Minutes

Up till that point no one paid attention to the little girl. It was almost like she didn’t exist. The child loved the attention she got from the older woman. The little girl reminded the older woman of her own great grandchildren. For the rest of that day, the woman thought about how vibrant and lively the little girl was. She was glad she had seen her and stopped to talk to her.

I am sure at various times you have seen these types of interactions between older people and young children. They happen fairly frequently. You may also recall a time when an older person stopped to talk to one of your children this way.

Have you seen how your parents tend to fuss over your children more than you recall them ever fussing over you when you were their age? You probably realize your parents have a special bond with your children. At times they may have even spoiled them.

Younger children love the attention they get from older people. Older people appreciate the opportunity to be with them.

Sadly, as Children Get Older, Life Happens.

They forget the bond they had with older people. Sometimes as young adults, they may get frustrated with the older adult – maybe not their own grandparents but other older people they see. They feel the seniors drive too slowly. In the checkout lines in grocery or department stores, these people create delays by taking too long to pay for their purchases.

It’s sad but in America, there is a gap between people over 60 and younger ones. This is really unfortunate because they have so much to offer each other. All they have to do is connect.

Are You Aware How Much Older People Would Love to Connect with You?

Have you ever thought about how much you might benefit from this? It may not be comfortable for you to ask your parents for parenting advice. You may be afraid they would think less of you. You may not want to because their parenting skills were not the best.

At times like this, it may be great to talk to an older person who is not in your family. Family dynamics don’t come into play. There are no chances the person being asked will become defensive. You are more likely to get honest, straight forward advice.

Older People Have a Wealth of Knowledge . . .

. . . they have accumulated throughout their lives. Did you ever realize they probably have experienced many of the same challenges you are facing or will face? They can share how they handled them, what worked and what didn’t. All you have to do is ask.

There are other advantages of developing friendships with people in this older age group.

  • They can be there for you and help you through difficulties you have.
  • They can grieve with you at the time of loss.
  • Thy can create a special bond with your children, especially the younger ones, and love them in a special way.

Older People Also Benefit from Relationships with Younger People

Frequently older people, especially those who don’t have family members living nearby, can be lonely. They welcome the opportunity to spend time with others.

They’ll never admit it but they also value small things like:

  • Stopping by to see them and sharing a coffee or other drink with them.
  • Bringing your small children along so they can interact with them.
  • Inviting them to spend time with you at your place.
  • Going grocery shopping with them or picking up their prescriptions other items for them when they can’t get out.
  • Helping them with lawn or garden care or with minor repairs around their home.
  • Helping them understand how to use computers or even getting online.

These may be minor things for you but they will really appreciate you for doing them.

There is One Group You Need to Know About

These are older people living in assisted living centers or nursing homes. Some rarely get visitors, especially those with no relatives in the area. All too frequently they are lonely and depressed.

Someone just dropping by to say hello and spend some time with them brightens their days. They also appreciate anything done for them.

For several years now, a group of millennials in Seattle have been throwing a senior prom for people living at an assisted living facility. They decorate the room beautifully. Everyone dresses up and younger men dance with those single ladies old enough to be their grandmothers.

The residents of this home look forward to this. The Senior Prom is the highlight of their year.

You and several of your friends may want to do something special at an Independent Living community or an assisted living facility near you. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate senior prom. It can be something simple. Maybe a Halloween or Christmas party. Perhaps a summer cookout or barbecue. Maybe even a movie or games night.

The residents would be thrilled and you and your friends would enjoy it. When you give your time and resources to a senior, everyone benefits.