Jun 29, 2017 10:39:00 AM
|There was a time in this country when it was not unusual for three and sometimes four generations of one family to live near one another or even within the same household. Today, however, there is a rather different picture of the American family—one in which generations very commonly live in separate states and sometimes separate countries, thanks to a number of factors that have had societal benefits but have also created our current conundrum of generational segregation.
As unintentional as this separation may be, the fact is that technology, longer lifespans, and greater mobility, among other things, have resulted in adult children moving away from their parents for better work prospects, grandparents and grandchildren living hundreds of miles away from each other, and older adults living in isolated settings like nursing homes and retirement communities.
In its new report, Generations United examines this topic and makes an excellent and insightful case for bringing children and older adults together again. Generations United is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of “children, youth, and older adults through intergenerational collaboration, public policies, and programs for the enduring benefit of all.” The report highlights examples of pioneering programs that are reuniting the generations and making their communities better places to live.
Titled “I Need You, You Need Me: The Young, the Old, and What We Can Achieve Together,”the report also includes the findings of a national Harris Poll survey of 2,000 U.S. adults:
If you are a provider of long-term care and/or aging services, it would behoove you to take the survey result to heart and address the opportunities they present. Intergenerational programs are win-win for older adults and children. And our sector is uniquely positioned with the access and know-how to make such programs happen.
According to research cited in the report, intergenerational engagement offers many benefits:
Let’s add to the conversation that bringing young and old together helps to change perceptions about aging. With meaningful interaction comes a more positive view about being old.
Among the many programs highlighted in the report is DOROT, an initiative based in New York City that mobilizes more than 7,000 volunteers— many of them children, teens, and young adults—to serve 3,000 isolated elders each year. Volunteers visit with the same homebound elder every week. Others deliver holiday packages to elders, make birthday cards for them, and escort them to museums and movies, according to the report.
DOROT also operates a summer internship program that enables high school and college students to spend time with elders and explore the field of aging services. For many students, the experience is transformative.
Could intergenerational programs become the norm among long-term care/aging services providers? Imagine the potential benefits to elders, community youth, employees with children/elder family members. And imagine the possibilities for business development, programming, community engagement, and local support. It could change the paradigm and advance the notion that providers are an integral, multifaceted part of the greater community.
If you want a focused approach to creating innovative intergenerational programs in your community, facilitated by experts in the field, contact Quantum Age today.
Carol died last week, she was 91 ½ years old and the inspiration for the Intergenerational Center. I met her when she was 88 years old living in an independent living facility. I had just started out doing pet therapy with Buddy, my dog. Carol was like a Pied Piper, she would scoot in with her walker to our monthly Pet Therapy sessions. Carol would knock on doors and have a posse behind her. She loved being with the dogs and telling stories.
One day I came to visit and Carol was not there. I was just an observer in her life. She had fallen, ended up in the hospital and moved to a rehabilitation facility. I tracked her down and Buddy and I visited her there often. Sometimes when I visited, she was in PT and I watched her work hard to get her mobility back.
Another day, I came to visit and she was not there, again. This time she moved into an assisted living facility that didn’t have PT and over the course of 2 years, her health declined. Buddy and I visited her often. When she became unable to walk down to the dining room, she stayed put and had her meals in her room.
Two Thanksgivings ago, she came to my house for Thanksgiving. It was a fight to get her there. There were so many reasons she didn’t want to go, but we insisted. Carol had a wonderful time. I think my family got more out of her being there that afternoon, then she got out of being there. We even walked up the path to see an owl, sitting in the nest in the tree. She was pretty good with her walker but I could see she was slowing down.
I did a good bit of traveling this last month and before I left, I always visited Carol. She was slowing down. Once you stop moving it gets harder and harder to to get moving again. We talked about death. She said she wasn’t afraid, and that she believed in heaven. Each time I had to leave, I told her when I came back, if she wasn’t there I would say, ‘hurrah for you Carol! you made it”. If she was there, I would come visit. She laughed.
I came back from a week away and Carol was no longer there. I tracked her down and she was in a nursing home. I was told she had a ‘crisis’ the week before. When I found her, she was asleep in a shared room with her roommate screaming. I didn’t have the heart to wake her. The next time I went she was awake in bed with the covers pulled up over her nose and her eyes wide as can be. A staff member was cleaning the bed and the other side of the room. The screaming lady had passed.
The last time I saw Carol, she was in a wheel chair in the day room being fed by a kind aide. This was the first time she didn’t recognize me. Her eyes were closed and she was uncommunicative. A woman sitting next to her, grabbed my arm and pulled me close to her telling me that she loved me. I think she just needed some human contact. Before I left, I kissed Carol on the forehead and told her I loved her.
She passed the next night, while I was on a plane going across the Atlantic to Scotland. Carol and I often talked about my Intergenerational Center and how she wished she could spend her days there, instead of alone in her room. I told her I was doing my best to get it built and I still am. I will miss her.
Older Adults Are Ethnically Diverse:
- Today, more than one out of five adults age 65+ is a person of color. This figure will more than double by 2050.
- By 2019, the Hispanic population aged 65 and older is projected to be the largest racial/ethnic minority in this age group.
Older Adults Are A Resource For Their Families:
- Older adults are increasingly serving as unpaid caregivers for family members.
- More than one-third of the approximately 65 million Americans who are providing care for aging parents or a disabled family member are between the ages of 50 and 64.
- 2.6 million grandparents are responsible for raising their grandchildren.
Older Adults Are A Resource For Their Communities:
- Older Americans are more educated than ever. Almost 83 percent of older adults have completed high school or higher education.
- The majority of older Americans are in good health. Nearly three-quarters of adults age 65-74 report being in good health, with 25 percent of those 65+ reporting they are in very good or excellent health.
Older Adults Care About Their Communities And Their Country:
- Older adults make valuable contributions by volunteering. About one out of four adults age 55+ volunteers in their community.
- Americans are staying in the workforce longer. In 2016, more than 18 percent of people 65+ were still in the labor force.
- Older adults vote. 71 percent of citizens 65 and older reported casting a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.
Yet Some Older Adults Need Help:
- Nearly 9 percent of older adults live in poverty.
- 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease; 77 percent have at least two. Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of our nation’s health care costs, and 95 percent of health care costs for older adults.
- One in 10 older adults who live at home are subject to elder abuse, including physical abuse, psychological or verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect.
Did you know that they are aging at the pace of 10,000 turning 65 every day, for the next 11 years.