close

The pandemic has accentuated the challenges around social isolation, especially for older adults. This is no exception in Our Community. How long has it been since you last reached out to an older adult whom you’re close to? While it may seem small, even one conversation can go a long way to enhance the quality of life for an older adult.

Benefits of Intergenerational Connections:

two men speaking with linked arms
  • Broader and new perspectives – Having diverse age groups in your relationships can help you expand your perspective. There may be a stereotypical impression that the older generation is rigid or old-fashioned in their beliefs and thoughts, but these interactions can open each side’s perspectives. While the younger generation can provide new ideas, the older generation can bring years of experience to the conversation. (Coxwell, 2020).
  • Reduce stereotype and preconceptions – Interacting with different generations helps decrease beliefs, preconceived notions, or stereotypes people may have about other generations. One study by Cornell showed that programs with intergenerational components along with education on the aging process helped reduce such prejudice (Kelley, 2019).
  • Positive attitude about aging –An AARP survey shows those who have close intergenerational friendships are more likely to have a positive outlook on aging overall (AARP Research, 2019).

 Tips for intergenerational connections:

man in wheelchair speaking with woman
  • Acknowledge different vocabularies. – Younger or older, people may be unfamiliar with word choices the other group uses normally. There may be acronyms that are understood by certain generations, or media references that may only be relevant if you have seen specific shows or heard certain songs. It’s okay to ask questions if you don’t know. Be patient and learn from each other.
  • Ask specific questions – Rather than “How have you been?” or “What have you been up to lately?” maybe consider asking specific questions such as, “How is your pet doing?” or “How is your garden coming along?” to help expand conversations.
  • Nonverbal communication – Use body language to show that you are engaged in the conversation. Consider limiting distractions like looking at your phone, as they may take away from the interaction.
  • Acknowledge differences and find common ground – Note that people may have different preferences and experiences. Rather than focusing on the differences, try to find common ground and timeless topics that are relevant to all generations.
  • Be open/Active listening – Be open to different thoughts, perspectives, and ideas.
  • How they want to engage/meet may be different from your preferences; find ways to meet in the middle. Some may prefer in-person while others prefer phone calls. At times you may need to speak slower. There may also be physical limitations (like decline in hearing, etc.) Make sure to remain flexible and patient.

While the pandemic may have taken away many of the regular interactions we have with others, consider reaching out to your loved ones keeping the above information in mind to enhance the quality of your relationships.

Sources:

AARP research. (May 2019). The Positive Impact of Intergenerational Friendships. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/life-leisure/2019/friendship-across-the-ages.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00314.002.pdf

Coxwell, K. (2020). Friendships Across Generations: The Powerful Benefits of Younger Pals. Retrieved from: https://www.newretirement.com/retirement/friendships-across-generations-the-powerful-benefits-of-younger-pals/

Kelley, S. (2019). Education, interaction with older people reverses ageism. Retrieved from: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2019/06/education-interaction-older-people-reverses-ageism