Bridging the generational gap

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July 18th, 2011

Omaha, NE – With age comes wisdom. But what happens when the wisdom isn’t passed down to the next generation? About eighty older adults attended a workshop on Friday about their role in this information sharing process – with a specific focus on spirituality.

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Many older adults attended a workshop on Friday about their role in passing their knowledge and experience on to the next generation. (Photo by Angel Martin)

Kay Bret attended the University of Nebraska Omaha Department of Gerontology’s first Spirituality and Aging workshop.

“I think we just need to learn to love one another and to accept each one,” she said. “At whatever age we are or where we are in life.”

Event organizer Amy Hanson is a UNO adjunct professor, and she works with older adults in the faith community. Often when younger people think about a workshop for the elderly, she said, they think of how they can best assist them while aging. That’s a problem, Hanson said, because the elderly have so much more to contribute.

“We are an age-segregated society,” she said. “Children go to school; young adults and middle aged are supposed to be at work. Elderly and older adults are supposed to either get together to drink coffee or retire at a “Sun City.” Lots of churches are like this and lots of neighbors are like this, they are … [sic] siloed, and that creates a tremendous challenge for connecting the generations.”

Father Dennis Hamm participated in the panel discussion along with several other leaders in faith groups. Hamm said one way older people can bridge the generational gap is through mentoring younger people.

“It’s a very natural development if, let’s say, somebody in their 60’s or 70’s volunteers to tutor at a school,” he said. “A healthy relationship develops, a kind of a friendship, which is a natural context for sharing…in the communication between the elder and the younger person.”

Organizers of the workshop said people are living longer these days, and when a person reaches the average retirement age of 65, they may have another 30 years of life before them. Amy Hanson added seniors have a wealth of knowledge to offer the community, and she hopes workshops like this empower them to pass that knowledge down to the next generation.

One Response

  1. Ela Locke says:

    Kay Bret’s quote, “We are an age-segregated society” accurately describes the clear generational gap between the elderly and youthful generations. It is generally understood that many younger people in our country do not understand nor do they attempt to interact and form a relationship with growing aging population. Perhaps this is due to the growing learning curve in technology use, but it can also reside in the misunderstanding of beliefs. Here is an example of what I’m talking about illustrated from an elderly man: http://whoweam.com/portraits/noah-langley/. Besides volunteering at an after-school program, what other ways do you see younger people learning to respect and learn from the elderly?

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