This summer I had the opportunity to watch my parents, Virginia and Wayne Gordon, as they played with their grandchildren. It was clear that their interaction brought joy to both generations. Although researchers have proved that intergenerational relationships have a positive effect on both the emotional and physical well-being of older adults and children, most of us know the importance of these relationships from our own personal lives. My mother views being a grandparent as, “Finding the Fountain of Youth, because you get to play and sing and laugh out loud and it’s perfectly acceptable.” My father added, “Our grandchildren accept us the way we are. In their eyes, they see this old man as one of them!”
Relationships between older and younger generations also help to end stereotypes of aging and reduce age-related isolation. Older adults often report feeling energized by their younger counterparts who are still learning, exploring, and willing to try new things. On the flip side, children and young adults report appreciating the perspective of their older counterparts, who have a broader knowledge base and are more relaxed than their peers. For families, the cultural richness that older family members have to share with their younger relatives is invaluable. From these relationships, children learn family stories and traditions, and bond over meals that have been passed down from their ancestors.
Intergenerational relationships are not limited to familial relationships. Securing a network of friends of all ages is fulfilling and can reduce the loneliness that older adults often experience when they lose friends to illness or death. This month, we encourage people of all ages to reach out to their younger and older counterparts–a great way to start is by celebrating Grandparents’ Day on September 7th. You may find that a rewarding relationship is just a phone call or video chat away.
Stephanie Chong, LICSW, is the Director of Seabury Resources for Aging’s Care Management Program. Care managers work with older adults on an individual basis to advise them on a variety of issues and services; such as home care, transportation, medical/legal assistance and housing. Families are put at ease having a knowledgeable guide to provide recommendations and resources to meet their unique needs. This expertise can save families money and reduce stress and time away from work. Ms. Chong can be contacted at (202)364-0013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.