Intergenerational Relationships

By Jeni Hollander

The current older population is living and staying active longer
than any previous generation has before.  This provides special
opportunities for younger generations to take advantage of their
contact and relations with older adults.

Tutor Ben Packman teaching Cookie Hollander in the Tablet Tutor Class at Covenant Place.

Tutor Ben Packman teaching Cookie Hollander in the Tablet Tutor class at Covenant Place.

While intergenerational relationships provide many benefits for both participants, there are some barriers that can make this relationship initially seem challenging.  Because each generation grows up during a different time period with different trends and values, people can find it hard to relate to or understand people of a different generation than their own.  Many adolescents and young adults, who feel their knowledge is more
contemporary, may not respect the relevancy of their elders.  It’s important for the younger generations to acknowledge the benefits that can be derived from the unique relationship they can have with older adults.

Intergenerational relationships are a two-way street.  Each has different things they can teach one another.  As adolescents become more aware of the world they live in, older generations can fascinate them with stories of how the world was when they were growing up.  They can tell them of the things that went on and the activities they partook in when they were their age.  They can connect through the differences they experienced by comparing them and telling stories.

Resident Natalie Kunin’ says “talking to the young kids about what they’re doing in school, their families at home, and asking other questions about their life” is what she enjoys about interacting with kids during programs at Covenant Place.  Since residents are mainly around people of their own age group during their daily life, having people of different ages come to Covenant Place and simply conversing with them is refreshing.

Likewise, younger generations can do a lot for their elders.  As technology advances, the younger generation can keep their elders up to date on iPhones, iPads, computers, and Facebook.  The Tablet Tutor program at Covenant Place has teens come in to teach older adults how to use an iPad and smartphone.  Zeze Burch, a teen tutor from Camp Emeth, says her favorite part about the program is “to be able to teach them new things because I like learning new things.”  This program gives the younger generation a chance to exercise their knowledge on something the older adults have barely seen in their lifetime.

Besides technology, current trends and lingo can also be explained or clarified to enable older adults to stay up to date and connected with younger people.  As the current older generation is staying active and healthy into their later years, they can participate in physical and lively activities with younger generations, helping both young and old to stay invigorated and energized.

Though younger children and older adults have the biggest gap in age, interaction between the two can provide unique benefits unlike any other type of relationship.  Establishing connections and relationships between generations helps to assures that history will be kept alive, generations will be able to effectively communicate with one another, and that young and old will benefit from shared knowledge and companionship.