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  • Writer's pictureAGD

Bridging the Gap Between Generations

Over the past decades, generations of society have grown farther and farther apart from each other. With exponentially changing technologies and limitless access to information, society has become inattentive to its surroundings and those in it. There is no longer a life where morals, ethics, and values come from people directly involved in our lives; Rather we now pull all of these from technology and media trends. Input comes less from others for knowledge and wisdom, and instead more from what technology has to offer. I feel it is often forgotten how much human beings have to offer and that every person has gone through different life experiences and has different skills to share.

A brief history of how elder care: The Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601 in England laid the groundwork for welfare services in the American colonies, later adopted by English settlers in the 1620s. It established criteria for aid eligibility and led to the creation of Poorhouses, meant to assist those deemed unable of self-reliance, destitute and elderly. This system over time-showed its weakness and often failed due to inadequate conditions and lack of reform. Eventually, state institutions took over their responsibilities due to their shortcomings. The first Social Security Act in 1935 resolved these issues and rendered Poorhouses unnecessary. However, the need for elder care persisted. Title II, established over two decades later, mandated employer investment in retirement. In 1952, Congress allocated federal funds for social services for older Americans, ensuring minimal support.

Often, the stress of elder care responsibility falls upon families. Institutional help is only offered in situations where the family-based system is looking to fail. Government has not provided family support nor have they pressed the need for any private-sector foundations to step in and offer assistance. Being that there is an undefined definition of when the family based system fails, we fall victim to a quick-stitch fix in which we land somewhere in-between the two. There has been a steady positive shift towards creating better living conditions for the vulnerable aging society of Americans, but similar to everything else, it has its constraints.

The generations of now: This is the generation where two-year-olds answer phone calls and set business meetings (not literally but you get what I mean). The new generation of tech-loving children are what could possibly take us to a future in which cars fly and texts could be sent by a sequence of eye blinks. With this constantly expanding group of society, there is a need for them to be understood. They have a desire to be respected for the things they know through social media and the ability to learn and adapt with almost instantaneously changing technology trends. As of 2015, The U.S. Census recorded that the millennial population has surpassed the previous largest population (Baby Boomers 74.9 Million) with 75.4 Million. Millennials were classified as those between the ages of 18-34 at the time of the Census. The growth of this group needs to be catered to for if this generation can not be understood and incorporated, then the one to follow could be even more of an issue.

Technology sculpts society to believe that it is the new way of learning. The “iGen” generation is the new way of the future. Young preschool age children are learning to nearly fully function iPads and iPhones without any hesitation. Some may say this wave is beneficial to our workforce-to-come but others fear the things that their toddlers are losing. It is prevalent in our current group of millennials that they lack the ability to socialize with people out of their generation. They have become connected to a world of information and disconnected from the world of reality. Studies from NPR state that while technology may boost relationships with friends by 44%, it also detracts from face-to-face communication by 34%. Socialization must not be deterred by technology because it is such an important part in the developmental process. The use of technology amongst the young can be great, if done properly. Toddlers are becoming smarter and quicker and if these skills are taught at their most influential age then the possibilities for when they get older only grow. A balance needs to be found between the proper way to use technology to influence a new learning method but also incorporate the necessity of socialization and empathetic understanding.

Skills to be shared:

old to young =  life skills, values, life experiences, ethics, culture, and history

 young to old =  technology, multicultural relationships, environmental knowledge, and new communication methods

What we all want:

 • purpose

 • intent

 • learning

 • community

 • understanding

 • and playfulness

How can we implement these thoughts into society in a non-aggressive and appealing way:

 • Incentive programs for generational living

 • Provide amenities that appeal to all parties

 • Provide for the basic needs of all parties

 • aesthetically pleasing (architecturally well designed)

Example Case Study:

The Intergenerational Learning Center at Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle is a vibrant and innovative living care community for older adults. “The Mount” celebrates life, living and individual capability. They put their focus on the residents and making sure that dignity and respect for them is upheld. The level of care amongst residents varies from Transitional care to Skilled Nursing. The spectacle of The Mount and their offerings is their Intergenerational Learning Center though. The center exists for children, residents and patients to all have the opportunity to interact and do activities together.

A solution to this divide lies in creating environments that are inclusive of all generations as a part of the greater society and gives them a feeling that they are a piece of the community in which they live. Ultimately this has never been a spoken goal of any of the housing communities for the elder society or the millennial generation/generations to come. The missing link is in a community that encourages a mix of all ages. All people are exactly the same when it comes to the most basic of needs. Shelter, food, healthcare, transportation, safety and social interaction. They are both groups that are struggling to find purpose and reason. They can teach each other valuable skills.

As I’ve aged and watched those around me grow older, my eyes have been opened up to a greater respect for humanity and all the people who I am surrounded by. After researching and participating in cross generational opportunities, the benefits are incredible. Population is growing in all places and we as a society need to learn to live with each other holistically again. This is the way we need to live, to be able to sustain, and to be able to grow and benefit from each other. 

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