Promoting intergenerational relationships through age-friendly communities
Positive intergenerational relationships belie the origin of the World Health Organization’s age-friendly communities movement, which began in 2005. In 1999, at a ceremony launching the International Year of Older Persons, then Secretary of the General United Nations Kofi Anan stated: “A Society for All Ages is multigenerational, [not] fragmented, with youths, adults, and older persons going their separate ways…rather, it is age-inclusive, with different generations recognizing and acting upon their commonality of interest.”
The sentiment of enhancing intergenerational relationships resonates in deeply personal ways. For example, most all of us can relate to family experiences with our own aging parents and grandparents. And a life course trajectory provides for our own aging over time. Like all societies that have existed before us, and those yet to come, strong bonds exist among the generations.
The age-friendly community movement seeks to enhance intergenerational relations across the lifespan through many ways, including the alignment of shared interests. For example, research suggests that all people, both young and old, seek affordable quality housing, accessible and reliable transportation, flexible and rewarding employment opportunities and all desire to be treated with dignity and respect.
This is further expressed by AARP in the following excerpt: “AARP’s livable communities supports the efforts of neighborhoods, towns, cities and even states to become great places for all ages. We believe that communities should provide safe, walkable streets, age-friendly housing and transportation options, access to needed services and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life.”
Societal demographics provide us with opportunities to enhance intergenerational bonds. Those who are in the later stages of life can meaningfully commit toward the needs of those younger. In fact, generativity, or the continuity of one’s legacy via investments in younger generations, is a powerful motivator for baby boomers and beyond to give back to their communities.
Throughout history, older adults have been sought after for their wisdom, serving as guides and mentors for future progeny. Younger age groups, such as the millennials, share aspirational goals to enhance quality of life and relationships. These two generational trends alone portend great possibilities meeting mutual needs. And with a long-living society, there are exponential opportunities to bond among the ages, including engagement with babies, children, and young adults, as well as middle-aged and even older and very old age groups.
An age-friendly community provides for multiple activities and volunteer opportunities to connect across the generations, for the betterment of all of us.
Where would you begin to start forging intergenerational bonds in our community?