Intergenerational relationships one of life’s greatest treasures

Famed cultural anthropologist and author Margaret Meade once said, “Somehow, we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, a knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future.”

She was right. Great things come from developing Intergenerational relationships.

Fostering intergenerational relationships facilitates a stronger, happier community for young and old alike. Developing social bonds between youth and the elderly reinforce positive self-image, stronger family connections, and passage of traditions and oral histories.

How long has it been since you spent time with your grandma, grandpa, great aunts and uncles, and special elders in your life?

As young people, it is to our advantage to spend time with older generations. Older people can offer young people the ability to learn something from their life experiences.

Older generations have established wisdom that they can pass to younger generations. They can teach us about their cultural heritage, family history, or how to prepare a cherished recipe.

Older people tell great stories. They’ve lived through major historic events and can give you their account of what really happened. They enjoy painting a picture of “the way things used to be.”  They carry a wealth of information, family history and cultural heritage.

Because they’ve lived and seen it all, seniors sometimes have a more relaxed perspective on many situations.  As young people, we are often so busy trying to find greater meaning and placement in life that we sometimes miss the beauty of living. Older people can offer us a philosophy, understanding and perspective on life events if we simply ask.

The economy has been poor these last few years, but a bright side to this is that young mothers and couples are turning to grandparents for assistance with childcare. As a result, grandparents are spending more time and developing stronger bonds with their grandchildren. According to a study from the Knight Foundation, Children that have healthy relationships with their grandparents perform better in school, have a better sense and purpose in life, develop healthier relationships and social skills, and are less likely to get into trouble with the law.

If you don’t have that opportunity to spend time with elder family members anymore because they’ve passed on, exchange your favorite stories about them with surviving family members. I guarantee: It’s time well spent. You’ll laugh, cry and rediscover old memories.

If you don’t have a close family, or you reside far away from them, take the opportunity to get to know an elderly neighbor or volunteer for an organization like meals on wheels.  You’ll find yourself having a fun and rewarding experience.

For those with surviving elder relatives, we don’t know how long they’ll be around. Spend as much time as you can with these people. You won’t regret having gotten to know these people later in life.

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