Engage at Every Age: The benefits of intergenerational relationships

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Link to article in Press&News

By CEO Deb Taylor

May 1, 2018 marked the beginning of the 55th Older American’s Month. Every May since 1963, Older American’s have been acknowledged for their contributions to society. Older Americans Month is also a time to celebrate older adults and the positive side of aging.

This year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “Engage at Every Age,” but what does it mean to Engage at Every Age? I love this year’s theme because it’s intergenerational and incorporates people of all ages, which is so important for healthy aging!

From a young age, our most important relationships can be characterized as intergenerational; our parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, etc. When we’re young, those that are older are taking care of us, helping us navigate life and teach us how to engage in the world around us. As we get older, that dynamic begins to flip and those that are younger, our children, grandchildren, neighbors, etc., begin to take care of us, helping us navigate life and teaching us how to engage with the world around us and its constant changes. As children, we need those older, wiser individuals to help us form boundaries, learn right from wrong, and understand what we are capable of. When we get older, we need those younger, stronger individuals to help us stay active and engaged in our communities. We all need each other at every stage of life to remain engaged and to have a positive impact on our communities.

To me, “Engage at Every Age,” means to recognize our need for one another and to appreciate and respect people at all ages. We all have our own unique skills and knowledge that we bring to the table and, on the flip side of that, we all have areas in which we can grow and learn from one another regardless of whether we’re two years old or ninety-two years old.

Here are just a few of the many benefits you can receive from intergenerational relationships:

  • Children who spend time with older adults growing up are less ageist as they get older
  • It can prevent isolation and loneliness in older adults
  • It provides a perfect opportunity for young and old to learn from one another
  • It builds a stronger community
  • It gives older adults a sense of purpose and helps younger generations have a great respect for and value of older adults
  • It helps keep stories and history alive within families and the greater community

Intergenerational relationships are beneficial for everyone involved physically, mentally and emotionally, so let’s, “Engage at Every Age” not just this month, but every month!

Deb Taylor is CEO of Senior Community Services (seniorcommunity.org) and its Reimagine Aging Institute, a nonprofit that advocates for older adults and helps seniors and caregivers maintain their independence through free or low-cost services.