Bridging the gap between generations can be of great benefit to young and old alike.
It is a sad fact that today’s society is segregating people by age more and more. As we live to older ages, creating good relationships between the old and young has never been more important. It is important not just because we can learn things from each other, but also because it can help us to be better communicators, more empathetic and to simply add more joy into our lives.
It is unfortunate that many carers or other adults tend to warn children away from older people, for fear that they will be too noisy, boisterous or disturb them in some way. In actual fact, many older people cherish their opportunities to spend time with children, teens and young adults.
One of the main reasons why relationships between the young and old can not be easy is because communication between the two parties can be difficult. It can sometimes be difficult for each to understand one another, but this will come with time and practice. Whilst older people cannot always be as physical as they would like to, there are plenty of other activities which can be done together, from reading to each other, to conversations, and teaching each other new skills.
Learning how to communicate with people who they wouldn’t normally be exposed to can be extremely valuable for children. Unlike in other cultures and societies, typical British families do not live together with more than a couple of generations, so spending time with older people can help them to understand better how to interact with other people.
Another great benefit to bridging the gap between the young and old is that they can pass on knowledge and traditions. This can be a two-way street. The older generation can teach about old recipes, talk about their lives growing up, knitting, painting or any other interests that they have, and the younger generation can help them with technology, showing them how to access things which are of interest to them such as online games, photos or maps, or anything else that they enjoy doing.
Empathy and Respect
In today’s society which seems somewhat divided for a number of reasons, it is important to teach children about empathy and understanding when it comes to people who aren’t the same as them – for whatever reason.
There seems to be a lot of resentment between the two generations – whether it’s the perception that the older generation had it easier and were lucky with house prices, or the perception that the younger generation only want to stare at their phones and watch too much TV. By spending time with older people, children can learn about how to empathise with others, make themselves understood, and respect each other – as well as help the older generation learn more about the youngsters and the society that they are now living in. It is also a great way to teach them patience and that their needs don’t always come first.
For both the young and the old, spending time with each other is a great way to do something different. They offer a fresh perspective on things, and new activities which wouldn’t be done ordinarily among their peers. Regular meetings can also give older people especially, extra drive and purpose to their lives.
For many older people – and some younger people or parents, loneliness can be a problem. Regular visits can help to relieve that loneliness and isolation, becoming a stress-free way to socialise and something nice to look forward to.
What to do…
What activities you do together depends on the specific situation of each party – as well as what they want to do. Some ideas include:
- Reading each other stories, or making them up and telling them
- Talking about lives in the past
- Crafts or activities that both parties would enjoy, such as painting, going out for a walk, or to visit parks or gardens
- Teaching new skills
- As children get older, outings to visit places or to have lunch, or just a cup of tea
Although the most common relationships between older and younger people are between grandparents and grandchildren (or great grandparents and great grandchildren), it doesn’t mean that friendships and relationships can’t be formed between those who are not direct family. In fact, it really doesn’t matter.
Forming friendships and building bonds and relationships can be a positive thing for anybody, but this is particularly valuable to the elderly and young. Through exposure to people from other generations we can help to build and maintain a society of understanding, respect and mutual happiness.
Ella Hendrix is a versatile freelance writer, currently covering articles on family psychology, elderly care children’s behaviour. In her spare time, you will find her head in a book or sipping on a peppermint tea.