The rise of the internet and social media have led to much more digital interaction, and much less in-person connection. As communities of people have found their own silos and niches online, we have become ever more disconnected from each other.
However, there remains the important need for real human connection, especially between generations. Intergenerational connection is a mutually beneficial pursuit, where both parties are better off together than separate. Building international connections requires a lot of intentionality, but we believe that it is not only worth it, but an essential part of life. Here are several ideas we’ve come up with that we hope will spur intergenerational connection in your retirement communities.
This first one is a classic way to build intergenerational connection. Pair up senior residents with local high school and college students, and have them commit to meeting on a regular basis, whether that is weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. Consider giving them some resources to foster connection, such as questions to deepen conversation, board games and puzzles they can play together, or regular events for all mentors and mentees to attend.
Consider having residents organize a “storytelling session” centered around a specific time period, individual’s life experience, theme, or interest. Promote the event amongst local schools, inviting the next generation to learn from their predecessors. Encourage the youth to ask questions and engage with the speakers. This could be an amazing learning opportunity where youth get to hear seniors share from their wealth of life experience.
Gardening is an activity that people of all ages can participate in and enjoy. Starting an intergenerational community garden is a great way to connect youth and seniors through a shared love of gardening. Gardening is a very intentional labor that takes a lot of care and time. Naturally, the youth participating in this community garden will be led to regularly come back and visit as they tend to their plants. Raising up a garden is also a great way to bring youth and seniors together under a common goal.
The next generation is very tech-savvy, growing up in an era of technology. One way that youth can practically assist seniors is through helping them with tech issues. Consider hosting a tech help day, where local youths with a background in technology are available to help seniors figure out any technical issues they may have!
Books clubs are a great way to create a regular rhythm of connection amongst the generations. A book club is able to spark unique conversations around the text, and an invitation for both parties to share from their life experiences. Consider starting a book club around a beloved niche, such as romance, mystery, or life-advice.
Consider having residents partner with local ethnic organizations within your community to host events centered around specific cultures. Many senior immigrants hold valuable experiences from their home countries that they would love to share about with the next generation. Cultural events bring people of all ages together to celebrate a specific culture and its way of life, helping keep meaningful traditions alive. It’s a beautiful occasion for seniors to pass history and tradition down to the next generation.
We hope that these ideas are the beginning of new connections between your retirement community and the next generation. Intergenerational connection is something that we all need, and retirement communities have a unique role to play in helping make that a reality. As we head into this holiday season and the new year, consider launching your own intergenerational initiative!