Developing InterGenerational Communities

Sep
28
by Christine

There was a period during the last year of my mother's life when it felt like every time I called her, she was crying. Alarmed, I would ask, what's wrong? Mom would tearfully explain that another member of her Sunday school class had died and would share with me some poignant tidbit about the deceased. The last time we played out this scene, Mom broken-heartedly stated she just couldn't go to "one more funeral". I, not so tactfully, suggested she join another Sunday school class with younger people. Sadly, she did not go to the funeral nor she did join another Sunday school class, she quit going to Sunday school all together. Sunday school was one of Mom's few remaining activities that brought her in contact with other people.

Age is an easy method of grouping and sorting large groups of people. As a result, age forms and defines our individual communities from the moment we are born. The people we attend school with end up being our friends, confidants and familiars. The timing of life experiences is similar and we go through those experiences as a singular body. We find comfort in our age-based communities.

While there can be comfort in a community of friends who have ties based on shared experiences due to age, there are also challenges and disadvantages of segregated groups. A segregated group can become insular, myopic and develop an us vs. them mentality. How many headlines have you read about Generation Xers declaring they are tired of the Baby Boomers whining and vice versa? Segregation limits the group's exposure to ideas, opinions and experience as well as skews their vision of reality. My mother truly felt everyone around her was dying but in reality, it was the people of her age group.

My thesis, if you will, is that we need to develop intergenerational communities that allow us to share experiences from different vantage points and proficiencies. You may be "friends" with the younger people in your family but I would suggest there is also a hierarchy based on age in those relationships. To have peers that are both older and younger than you will enrich and enhance your life. Also, you will enrich and enhance the life of your intergenerational community. Take a look at your community is it based on age? If it is, maybe it is time to reach out to others outside your age group.

Hugs,
C