There has never been a better time to embrace friendships and relationships, especially intergenerational ones. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, a pandemic of loneliness was already setting in due to advancements in technology that has been rapidly changing our traditional methods of connecting.
According to a New York Times article, “United States surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, said the country was experiencing an epidemic of loneliness, driven by the accelerated pace of life and the spread of technology into all our social interactions. With this acceleration, he said, efficiency and convenience have “edged out” the time-consuming messiness of real relationships.”
For seniors who have lost spouses or loved one, loneliness can be more overwhelming, especially if they have not learned how to embrace new technologies for connection. The benefit for seniors to connect with school-aged children extends beyond the immediate socialization and companionship. Scientific research has increasingly supported the significance of intergenerational engagement, highlighting its favorable effects on the health of both seniors and children.
The American Society on Aging emphasizes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, of which there are five: physiological, safety, esteem, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization – “stage three, love and belonging is critical to relationship building and to how individuals connect with one another. Love and belonging can be perceived as intergenerational connectors. It is essential to understand that connecting with others to build a sense of belonging is imperative to self-fulfillment.” A lack of love and belonging could lead to a decrease in cognitive function, lowered self-esteem and in the direst situations, an increase in death.
At Inspīr, we curate an environment and lifestyle that supports a philosophy of vibrant, intentional living and meaningful connection based on Nine Core Elements. To reinforce a sense of belonging, purpose, engagement, and even laughter, one of the experiences we have curated for residents is a mentorship program with middle school children. The program, a collaboration with Sweet Readers, connects our residents in Terra and Oceana with young people at both Nightingale Bamford School and the Young Women’s Leadership School (TWYLS).
Karen Young, Co-Founder, Sweet Readers, explained, “Our method is an important part of the equation to the success of our programs. The children who participate are trained according to the Sweet Readers Method of Transformative Human Engagement. Their one clear goal is to discover the person behind the masks of aging and Alzheimer’s.” Students have a facilitator and a structured curriculum to guide them and they use their acquired skills and knowledge in science, the arts, communication, and leadership to achieve their goals and support one another.
In January, Inspīr Carnegie Hill, with Americorps, Argentum, and Sweet Readers created a “Generations Over Dinner” event that kicked off the six weeks mentoring series. It included five generations who gathered to discuss topics such as: climate change, public policy, and education. The series has been running throughout the spring semester of the school year and will take a break in the summer months. The success of the intergenerational relationships that have developed are clearly evident. Both residents and students look forward to their weekly sessions to share their life experiences, learn about technology, and discuss other topics with each other. Young told us, “middle school kids are intellectually at a different level than those younger or older – they have a light and it is an interesting time for them to be mentored. For residents the interaction with our sweet readers adds another dimension to their lives.”
We bring fresh senior living programs, experiences, and perspectives from a variety of engagement partners to support our philosophy of caring for the whole self. Each day, we purposefully integrate all of our Nine Core Elements into daily activities – keeping our residents engaged and vital.