Stories, new experiences, new people and a new perspective on life are essential at all stages of life. Studies in neuroscience, shed light on the transformational impact on the brain when different generations interact.
My recent visit to a well known old age home left me wanting for more inter generation interactions. This isn’t a radical idea – when two generations interact, it is beneficial for all, in a majority of cases.
After a study of generational interaction between teens and elders by randomly pairings of high school students and community members over the age of 55, the teens has this to say about their experience:
“My partner taught me to always do something. She taught me to never settle for being okay. Never do something you don’t want to do, do something that makes you happy. ”
“I learned from my partner that there are many unknowns, about yourself and about what the world holds. I learned everyone has many stories to share, no matter their age or gender. ”
“I learned that there is not one right way to go through life and that everyone makes their own path. Everyone makes mistakes and it is how you deal with them that matters in the end.”
“I learned to search for courage, especially, in all moments.”
“I learned that you can give back to your community in ways I would have never even thought of.”
When elders were asked what they learned from their teen partners, these comments were reflective of many others:
“I learned what it is like for a young person to struggle with problems and how that allows people to develop compassion.”
“My partner showed me the importance of showing up in relationships and the importance of being loyal to friends.”
“I learned, one more time, that there is no such thing as a safe life; that living, by definition is difficult. But it is also fun and funny if you continue to open yourself up to new possibilities.”
“My partner’s tolerance and acceptance of herself and others for who they are has encouraged me (once again) to examine my own ability to do the same.”
“Regardless of our age differences, I learned we have the same hopes and dreams for a good future and compassion and caring for the present. It was Interesting how one can bear your soul to essentially a stranger.”
You and I can make a huge difference, even with the systems that are in place by volunteering to visit these homes and by spending some time with a partner. When we interact with people whose stories are different than our own, it forces us to reexamine our values and perceptions, sometimes in ways you wouldn’t think you were capable of.