Understanding The Need For Intergenerational Bonding
Intergenerational Programmes Work As A Panacea
Margaret Mead the famous anthropologist was of the opinion that to restore a sense of community, encourage knowledge of the past and a sense of the future among our future citizens, we have to get older people close to growing children.
In many places around the world the 85 and better age group, is the fastest growing segment. Tapping youth and child power through intergenerational programmes is the best solution for the dire need for manpower and services for helping them. Seniors between 50 and 70 are healthy and fit to take on meaningful responsibilities post retirement.
Hence, intergenerational programmes work as a panacea for this need and provide a venue for regular contact, increasing an understanding of the different phases of life and helping generations to advocate for one another. Several gaps in services for all generations can be filled such as the need for tutors, role models, mentors and creative programmes for children and youth in urban and rural communities.
Opportunities For The Young And The Elderly To Interact
The terms generation and cohort are used synonymously in social science referring to a population having experienced events within a given period of time, spanning 10 years or more. Adding the prefix ‘inter’ to the word generation signifiesa dependency between ditforont generations.
Intergenerational programmes provide opportunities to the young and the elderly to interact and become engaged for mutual benefit. With fast paced lifestyles and ease of travel, many families have taken on nuclear lifestyles (‘just parents and children). With family members being distanced due to immigration, education and lure of jobs abroad, families are losing the natural intergenerational composition, resulting in isolation and segregation of elders.
The best known intergenerational programme was created in 1963, by ‘Generations United’ in USA to combat the widespread poverty among the elderly. It connected low income individuals 60 years and better with children with special needs, creating a foster grandparent effect, leading to reduction of isolation and reduction of poverty In the elderly while providing love, warmth and a safe, cosy and a one-on-one bond with an adult for the child.
Over the years intergenerational programmes have become the norm to address social concerns like drastic traumatic changes in family structurelike death, divorce, chronic disease, drug use. violence etc. The main focus is on offering mutually beneficial planned activities and opportunities for interaction among children, youth and older adults. The spotlight is on sustaining relationships, with talent and resources being shared and nurtured to benefit community and individuals.
Youngsters Can Provide Companionship To Older People
The increasing numbers of older people with varying supportive needs will require more innovative adult care programmes. Youngsters providing companionship to older people and helping them in service projects to benefit community is an excellent way to go ahead. With schools stepping forward with credits for SUPW (socially useful productive work) and corporate social responsibility for organizations becoming a norm, this will go a long way in improving the quality of life for the elderly.
The youth feel happy and look forward to in-home visits with seniors, run errands, teach computer skills or use of smart devices and new technology. These tasks fill a huge emotional gap in the lives of both – youngsters learn to be attentive listeners and learn oral history, while elders enjoy speaking!
Sharing Of Responsibilities And Mutual Give And Take
Mentoring programmes is another major area to work on. Many older adults give their time mentoring fresh graduates in business startups, help in parenting guidance and counselling and tutoring and telephone reassurance services. Also, the older adults and the young complement each other in serving together in performing! visual arts programmes, family support programmes, environmental preservation and community service.
Responsibilities are shared and mutual give and take happens within these intergenerational programmes in senior housing and gated communities, schools and libraries. These projects will take time to take oft in India, but awareness is on the use and we can look forward to a commitment to volunteering among elders and youth in the near future.
Preventing Isolation And Enhancing Socialization
Research reports show that active and engaged older adults who volunteer, live longer with better physical and mental health than their non-volunteering counterparts. By preventing isolation and enhancing socialization, older adults remain productive and engaged in the community, sharing their experiences. With opportunities for lifelong learning of new technologies from their younger counterparts, they get a new dimension to their life using the newly acquired skills and giving back to society in their way.
Youngsters stand to gain immensely from the emotional support, elders’ experience, wisdom and affection and get a sense of security and belonging. Another aspect of intergenerational bonding is the bond between teachers and students. To explore the significance of social integration in the educational system, studies have examined student-teacher relationships and how this affected behavioural outcomes – academic achievement and disciplinary problems.
The NGO, HelpAge India has had a positive impact on the lives of eight million senior-citizens and their families, since its inception in 1978. Every year they conduct walkathons in the capital to highlight the needs of the elderly on the International Day of the Older Person on October 1st each year. India is on the verge of a silver tsunami which will bring about unprecedented senior talent and experience to be harnessed and used to benefit the community through well-thought out intergenerational projects to help the elders in urban and rural India.