According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2040, the estimated number of adults over the age of 65 in the United States will grow to more than 60% from 2016—just four years ago! More than 80 million seniors will account for nearly a quarter of the country’s total population. By 2035, older adults will outnumber children under the age of 18 across the country. Now more than ever, it’s important to make the most of intergenerational relationships by fostering communication and interaction between the generations, especially adult children with their parents, and children with elders.
Each generational group can learn so much from the other, but they often don’t see eye to eye. Children often feel that older people don’t like them. Adult children often steer the grandchildren away from grandma or grandpa fearing they’ll be too loud or upset them. Sometimes the older person doesn’t respond to the child’s comments. (Maybe it’s a hearing or attention span problem). And for adolescents, relating to older adults can be particularly challenging. According to research conducted at the University of Florida, teens tend to be more focused on the present and themselves, so they are generally less interested in learning about older adults. The elderly often feel that children don’t like them because they’re slow or don’t have anything interesting to talk about. Can you relate to any of these scenarios?
Fostering communication, understanding—AND learning—between the generations is becoming increasingly important—AND it takes thought and work. It’s definitely a two-way street, as well. Each generational group has worthwhile lessons to share with the others. Here we hope to give you some thoughts, ideas and practical applications that may help members of your family bridge the generational gaps you encounter in your daily lives and relationships. The benefits are widespread, especially when nurturing the grandparent-grandchild relationship.
All Generations Can Benefit
Consider the following ways that children of all ages, adult parents and the elderly can enrich their lives and relationships with each other by bonding:
- Opportunity to learn new skills and ways of doing things.
- Acceptance of people of all ages, capabilities and limitations.
- Respect and emotional bonds are strengthened.
- Loneliness and isolation are diminished or eliminated.
- Increased knowledge and respect for family heritage, culture and history (thanks to grandparents’ stories of the “good old days”).
Let The Bonding Begin
What are some good ways to get started in bringing your personal generations together? Here’s where thought and creativity come into play. The following activities have proven successful in initiating, building and strengthening relationships between all generations:
- Storytelling and swapping stories helps build a connection.
- Learning skills that both adults and children can share. Adults might teach weaving or needlework, fishing, or how to cook a delicious family favorite. Tech-savvy children may share computer tips and tricks with the elderly.
- Discussing ethnic heritage by sharing customs or relating special stories passed down about family culture.
- Planting seeds or gardening. Try a container garden as a solution if bending or space are issues.
- Discussing hobbies and providing examples.
Life Lessons To Be Learned
Youth and old age are categories grounded in biology but defined by culture and the way we live our lives. All generations have life lessons to share. Here we identify the most obvious lessons that can be learned by developing intergenerational relationships.
What Children Can Learn From Older Adults:
- Life has a rhythm and nothing ever stays all-bad or all-good.
- Family is important. Life stretches in two directions: toward our ancestors and toward our descendants.
- What love truly means and how best to give and receive it.
- How little you actually know.
- How to stop caring about what people think.
- Dealing with loss and avoiding regrets.
- How to make time for what matters most.
What Older Adults Can Learn From Children:
- Keeping effective communication flowing by staying up-to-date with modern technology.
- It’s O.K. to relax and play every now and then.
- Keeping an open mind and getting excited about learning new skills.
- Appreciate and share the moments, thoughts, or ideas with friends and family.
- There are fun ways to stay active that don’t involve a gym routine.
IN CLOSING—Generational Lessons In Curiosity & Growth
No matter how old you are, you can still set goals and live new dreams. This is the mantra of so many residents of The Carrington at Lincolnwood who cherish the community’s next-generational approach to senior living. It’s a community focused on curiosity, growth, choice and new opportunities.
We’d like to show you around. Call us today at (847) 744-9469 to schedule a personal tour.