A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE MAY 30: You and old, say hello

Sometimes a piece of information comes into the newsroom too late to make it in as an article.

Sometimes a piece of information comes into the newsroom too late to make it in as an article – but it still has a message that ought to be shared.

Such is the case with a press release that came in on Tuesday afternoon announcing that 88 communities across Canada have declared June 1 Intergenerational Day Canada – a day dedicated to encouraging young and old to say hello and get to know each other better.

Intergenerational Day Canada provides an easy opportunity to raise awareness in classrooms and in daily life of the many benefits that simple and respectful connections between generations bring to education, health and community safety.

Stereotypes of both young and older people are broken down when they learn about each other. Isolation is diminished and empathy grows in both directions. Intergenerational Day Canada makes a powerful statement about the value of generational connecting within each and everyone’s neighbourhood.

Individuals and families are increasingly mobile in our country due to work and educational opportunities, making it difficult to maintain regular contact between generations. Immigration, high costs of travel and family breakdowns all contribute to shifting social circles which can lead to isolation and generational disconnect.

Workers often travel in age-related networks, young children are in primary schools, teens are in high schools, older adults are moving to retirement communities and seniors homes. We do all of this with an eye to efficiency of service, but what is our loss in breaking these generational connections?

Intergenerational activities are an untapped resource. They are rich in personal connections and provide opportunities to practice personal responsibility and empathy.

We spend tax dollars attempting to help isolated teens, neglected children and disconnected older adults. In many cases these two generations would solve their own problems just being together, guided by a respectful and safe plan. Reaching out to one another is a priceless first step.

Beyond a one-day event, an innovative intergenerational immersion project in Williams Lake, B.C. sees an elementary school class move into a temporary classroom in a seniors’ residence for two full months of the school year. They combine curriculum, volunteerism and one-on-one visitations. The project is a life-changer for all participants.

Celebration of Intergenerational Day Canada on June 1st can be as simple as giving a smile or a kind word, making a phone call to your grandmother or saying hello to a skateboarder.

Intergenerational Day Canada started four years ago when a teacher from Vernon, Sharon MacKenzie, was working on World Elder Abuse Awareness projects with teens.

MacKenzie recalls that the kids realized that the best way to stop ageism and mistreatment of people of any age was to prevent it.

Perhaps a special national day was the key – so June 1 was chosen, because of its close proximity to UN World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15.

MacKenzie’s message works to raise awareness of how bridging generations respectfully restores and strengthens community.

She is executive director of B.C.-based i2i Intergenerational Society of Canada (www.intergenerational.ca) and, with a small group of volunteers, is this year celebrating the 4th annual IG Day Canada.

The number of Canadian cities acknowledging this focus day has grown from seven to 88 in just one year with representation from every province and two territories. Four provincial governments have proclaimed the day as well.

“The message is being heard across the nation. It’s time for younger and older persons to re-connect, stay connected and have fun doing so,” MacKenzie says.