Did you know September is Intergeneration Month, a time to intentionally connect generations to communicate age-related gratitude and needs? Coincidentally, September 10th marked the opening of the Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) Bilingual Preschool at Aegis Gardens in Newcastle, one of the few shared sites for youth and older people in the U.S.
Bringing book-end generations together in one location for programming, nurturing both populations, provides short and long-term benefits. By adding seniors to a preschool program, children thrive with the added attention of an engaged elder. This attention also makes them feel valued and builds respect for older people.
The generational separation mentality begins early. As we go through school, the job force, and perhaps even parenthood, we tend to stick to our peer groups for social interaction, slowly but surely pushing the elder generations into isolation as they age out of family homes and into retirement.
Non-profit groups Generations United and The Eisner Foundation published a study titled “I Need You, You Need Me: The Young, The Old, and What We Can Achieve Together” in which all surveyed admitted we live in an age-segregated society. In this study, 53% of American adults say that they don’t regularly spend time with individuals much older or younger than they are, outside of their family. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 appear to be the most isolated from other generations, with 61% reporting a limited number of much older or much younger acquaintances. By segregating generations, our society gives rise to ageism, makes it harder to develop a sense of solidarity across society, and denies old and young individuals the opportunity to learn from and help one another. A whopping 76% of adults surveyed believe ageism is a very serious societal problem.
The good news is 9 out of 10 adults believe community programs that serve kids and older adults end up benefiting everyone, and 92% of adults believe that elders benefit from building relationships with children and youth. While younger adults have recently been feeling vilified by older generations (millennials vs. baby boomers), the introduction of intergenerational programming at an early age would open the conversation to all generations about the problems each face, and provide more understanding.
Communities that mix generations, like CISC Bilingual Preschool at Aegis Gardens, offer multiple opportunities for children and elders to learn from one another. Sharing in activities related to holidays and festivals, cooking, reading and sharing stories, arts and crafts, and music will aid both groups in combating isolation and in a large part, depression from isolation and loneliness.
Aegis Living Founder, Dwayne Clark, knows from experience bringing children into Aegis Living communities for the past 20 years that smiling faces of children bring vibrancy and fun which energizes seniors. “Seniors value having a purpose and programs with children enables them to contribute to their community and the next generation.”