Kendal at Oberlin – Tuesday, November 10, 2015
To some in western society, the concept of intergenerational living may seem like a new idea. In truth, though, it’s a timeless idea that is still practiced in many other countries and one that offers many benefits to all parties involved.
Historically, older people have played active roles in the care and teaching of the young. They were the storytellers and teachers in their villages, tribes, and communities. They had lived long lives and had stories to tell that not only delighted young children, but also taught them important lessons about history, survival, courage, and life.
Benefits to Young Children
The times haven’t changed so much that children have nothing to learn from the elders in their communities. In fact, children today stand to gain as much from this contact now as ever before – perhaps even more in a world that’s increasingly connected to the internet and disconnected from the people they spend time with every day.
Children today need to hear stories about the past in order to connect to the world outside of mobile phone, tablet, and portable game screens. Children learn about real life experiences and improve social skills by interacting with older generations.
Benefits to Older Adults
Older adults aren’t only giving in intergenerational environments. They also enjoy quite a few benefits of their own. While it is certainly exciting being part of a vibrant social community in retirement, being around young children also sparks the imagination and energizes the community in a unique way. Their playful approach to friendship makes the people around them feel more youthful and energetic.
Young children are inherently accepting. They are willing to forge friendships with new acquaintances regardless of age and other factors – even excited to do so. And don’t overlook the physical aspects of intergenerational programs; older adults who work with younger children may also enjoy the physical activity that is required. Working with children gives older adults an opportunity to enjoy the time spent together.
Benefit to the Community
From intergenerational programs like Generations United to informal opportunities to explore intergenerational activities (like the programs offered at Kendal at Oberlin) there are many possible benefits for the community as a whole.
There’s a wealth of shared knowledge and engagement among younger children, teens, college students, and older adults. Some of the benefits that result from these experiences are more respectful interactions between the generations and more empathetic people in all age groups who are able to see the world differently.
Diversity is an element that’s instrumental when it comes to keeping life interesting and inviting new opportunities to learn from others. Part of the appeal of intergenerational communities is the fact that there is diversity in age, background, education, and so much more. This provides opportunities for the excitement of the young to bring out the vitality and exuberance of the older ones, while the wisdom of the older adults brings out the thirst for knowledge and the natural curiosity of the young.