Multi-Generational Relationships

October is Seniors Month and this article titled "Living Your Best Life" was written by Candy Irwin and published in the October 13th issue of Crossroads this week.


October is 'Seniors Month' in Canada and 2023's theme is “Live Your Best Life.”


Part of 'living your best life' is recognizing that inter-generational -- or better yet -- “multi-generational” relationships are beneficial to each of us in many different ways. No matter our age, 'stepping outside our comfort zones' and interacting with others is an opportunity for growth.


When you think about it, people who are raised and experienced their lives during different time periods can have quite different values and perceptions of the world. This is certainly true of cultures other than our own.


This matters (greatly) because that situation can lead to difficulties in understanding each other. Descriptors such as the 'gray wave' or 'conflicts between kids and canes' are not without their basis in fact, especially as it relates to shrinking resources.


Over the past many years, the Municipality of Harrison Park Age-Friendly Initiative Committee has planned and promoted activities that attempt to close that widening gap. The list is both extensive and interesting.


Some time ago a group of students at Onanole Elementary School tried to complete simple physical tasks while wearing bulky gloves, simulating what it can be like to have arthritis and uncooperative hands.  


They performed other common chores wearing glasses smudged with Vaseline, to simulate what it might be like to have cataracts.  


And, finally, the students went around the community looking for barriers to accessibility, negotiating local businesses and public spaces with either  canes or wheelchairs.  


There was a real and meaningful 'Ah-Hah moment' when one of the children said, “Wait! It's not just old people who use wheelchairs.”  A discussion ensued about how one's quality of life can be dependent on your mobility and about the now late Stephen Hawking, with whom the students were familiar.


Other events have included  Elders' Dances at the Onanole and Strathclair elementary schools, Christmas Carol singing at the Sandy Lake Personal Care Home, helping to wrap gifts at Kids Can Shop at Erickson Elementary School (EES) and most recently, the GrandPals program that was successfully implemented within all three schools.


“I really enjoyed sharing stories with the Grade 5 and 6 students on GrandPal days at EES,” said Sharon Whitaker.  “Later, when I would meet my Pals in town, I'd hear a cheery “Hi Sharon” and just like seeing old friends, I was absolutely delighted!” 


While reading this, it is important to remember that not every child has a grandparent, loving auntie or kindly, cookie-baking neighbour -- nor does every adult senior have access to time spent with young people.  The benefits, however, are myriad.


  • Kids learn that life is a journey with a beginning, a middle and an end, thereby becoming more comfortable with aging themselves. 


  • When young and old come together, both age groups learn that ageism, whether directed at either group, is as harmful and hurtful as any other form of discrimination.


  • For seniors, contact with kids is a health booster, keeping us 'young at heart' and open to new experiences.  News Flash: Curiosity did NOT kill the cat!


  • While kids most certainly benefit from the wisdom of their elders, seniors can dismiss naivete (Tsk! Tsk!) and instead, embrace the younger generations' wonder, enthusiasm, hopefulness and optimism.


  • The youth of today, who have grown up with technology, can fling wide the door to life-long learning, making us question ourselves, ie. Why search the glove compartment for what is likely an old map when you can just use Google Maps on your phone?


  • As a society, when we foster inter-generational relationships, both groups feel heard and valued, mutually building each other's self-esteem.  Feel good.   Do good.


  • Any opportunity to bring the generations together is an opportunity (perhaps your opportunity) to pair vast experience with vast potential.



Don't know how to get started?  Search out opportunities. They do await.


And, don't forget that exercising your sense of humour helps develop rapport.   Just ask the Grade 5/6 class at EES to describe the navy blue, bloomer-style gym uniform I had to wear in school when I was their same age! Laughter and incredulousness ensued. Shyness evaporated and conversations began.