Sitting at the foot of a grandparents’ rocking chair, listening to them spin a story from their childhood is a less common experience for young people today than in the past.
Separated by geography and inundated by technology, the generations of a family and a community no longer come together like they used to. Today’s young people and seniors are missing out on learning from one another and as a result are missing out on better quality of life, said Jodi McBride, organizer of a new committee to connect these generations in Hope.
“Building that mutual respect for each other and reconnecting people is kind of a lost art form almost. Because our society has just grown so much and is so fast-paced, it seems like relationships are missing,” McBride said. “If we can try and re-establish that as a community-wide value, we’re hoping that that will have a significant impact.”
The intergenerational committee, started in the fall and co-led by Karen Bunner of the BC Association of Community Response Networks (BCCRN), wants to reap the benefits —for individuals and for the community —of having generations connect, learn and share with each other.
Bringing together children and youth with seniors can have tangible benefits, McBride said, including better health outcomes, higher quality of life and reductions in crime. This work is sorely needed, to address real issues the aging generation faces.
“When you start looking…you realize how many seniors are alone, they don’t have social networks, they don’t have three or more friends that they can talk to if something is going wrong, they’re isolated, and all of those things affect your quality of life and health indicators,” McBride said.
There are also many new families moving to Hope, a demographic McBride said is important to connect to the existing community.
“They’re moving here because housing is cheaper, but all of their family lives elsewhere. So you have these families with young children who don’t have the grandparents and don’t have those networks,” she said. “How can we replicate that at a community level so there are still strong ties?”
The community here is one of the first in B.C. to be doing intergenerational work: how exactly this will look is still to be decided.
The vision — to make the community aware of these relationships and their impact on health, and to bring these relationships between generations to a point where they are the norm — will be achieved by hosting events and workshops. This could look any number of ways: it could be an event where seniors share their stories, or a youth-led workshop to teach social media and computer skills.
The intergenerational committee is a sub-committee of the Hope and area volunteer program, where McBride said she has seen eager volunteers among both seniors and Millennials.
“When you look at the statistics on who’s volunteering and why they volunteer, it’s mostly seniors and retirees. But then there’s this other group coming up, of the Millennials, who are more socially minded than the older generations. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but they’re more driven to be involved with things that have social impact rather than a duty,” she said. “There’s a lot that the younger generations can learn from the seniors, and vice versa.”
Meetings of the committee are open to the public, they are held the last Tuesday of every month from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Fraser Canyon Hospital.
For people interested in what volunteers do and how volunteering can affect one’s life, there is a volunteer tea and storytelling event at the Read Right Society’s office on Wednesday, April 18 from 3 to 5 p.m.
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