Health Corner – The Value of Intergenerational Connection

Health Corner – The Value of Intergenerational Connection

THE VALUE OF INTERGENERATIONAL CONNECTION
by Susie Merrihew, MSW, LCSW

Some of my most cherished memories include many of you at St. Timothy. Camp Noah, a ministry that brings hope and healing to children who have been impacted by natural disaster, has been near and dear to my heart for just short of two decades. The transformation that occurs in many of the young campers over the course of one week is nothing short of miraculous. Similarly, it is awesome to see the way our volunteer team’s hearts are moved by the interactions throughout the week. I suspect that the ministry’s intergenerational nature is one reason that Camp Noah is so memorable for all. What a gift it is for 16-year-olds and 70-year-olds to have the opportunity to serve alongside one another. Equally touching is seeing a 45 and 80-year-old co- lead a group of 10-year-olds through a therapeutic activity. The week together with ages 5-80+ is a chance for sharing, learning, laughing, playing, and even crying on occasion, and cultivates beautiful growth and memories as keepsakes.

Intergenerational experiences can be valuable for all involved. The shared experience need not be as grand as spending a week together at camp. Time together can be as simple as playing games, coloring, reading, cooking, listening to music, gardening, or talking. The value of time together has less to do with the specific activity and much more to do with the quality of the shared interactions. Most importantly, never underestimate the positive impact that someone from one generation can make on another, regardless of the setting. 

Some benefits of intergenerational experiences include:

  • Stronger community
  • Mutual learning
  • Improved mental health
  • Reduced loneliness or isolation
  • Break down stereotypes and improve understanding 
  • Learn and teach new skills
  • Increased sense of purpose and belonging

 

This past January our junior high and high school youth had the chance to play some games and share a meal with members from an earlier generation. Going into it, the participants did not know what to expect. By afternoon’s end, many smiles were exchanged, stories shared, and connections made. We treasure connection and shared ministry among all our members and look forward to continuing these opportunities in the year ahead!