age gap · aging · Grandchildren · grandparents · Understanding

Bridging the Age Gap

I follow a blog, Time Goes By, written by a 77-year-old woman who has been studying and writing about aging for 25 years (https://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/2018/10/two-excellent-stories-of-youth-and-elders-together.html).

It is a great read and if you are interested in what is going on in government and society regarding the elderly, I highly recommend her contributions to the subject of old age.

In her column this week, she told of two programs that are matching up seniors and those not so senior in order for both parties to gain clarity and form friendships between the ages.

As a pre-teen and early teen, I spent time each summer with my grandparents, without my parents in tow. It was my first experience with ‘old’ people on a daily basis. My granddad was in his mid-80s, and my grandmother was 20 years his junior. She had polio as a child and as she aged her polio returned requiring her to navigate in a wheelchair.

I adored both these folks, and learned a great deal from them, primarily that they knew more than I did, and acceptance of their limitations, even though they were independent souls and didn’t display many constraints.

My granddad walked to his office (where he took lengthy naps rocked back in his chair in front of the office window facing main street in their small town) every morning except Sundays, walked home for lunch, took a 15-minute nap in his favorite chair, and walked back to the office for another 4 hours of talking with folks and enjoying more undisturbed naps for all to see.

The distance from home to work was not far, 6 or 7 blocks, uphill one way, downhill the other. I would try to match steps with him, but he was from the old school and insisted a woman should take two steps to a man’s one.

He instructed that men walked on the outside of the street (what we now call the curb side) shielding women from dirt and mud splashing on their clothing by horses and wagons moving on the unpaved roads. He explained in his younger days this was done because people would throw garbage/sewage/liquids and even each other from the second-floor windows, and again, the men being on the outside would get the worst drenching. He acknowledged with debris flying from above, women opened their parasols as additional protection from more than rain and the sun.

My grandmother cooked, washed, ironed, cleaned house, made the beds, and bought groceries all from her cane back wheelchair. When I was around 7 or 8 (that being in the late 1940s or early 1950s) her children cobbled up enough money to buy her what would be an early day golf cart with hand controls.

This allowed her to maneuver around town staying on sidewalks, mostly, and honking the irritating horn for strollers to get out-of-the-way. This mobility enabled her to continue getting to church where she played the piano every Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church my grandfather helped start, pick up the monthly commodities, and the weekly groceries.

Old age had not slowed them down, or so it seemed to me, but no doubt had mellowed them.

What I gave them was, hopefully, the memories of a time past when they too had roamed the fields and byways unencumbered by restrictions and disabilities, plus the current world seen through the eyes of a teenager, boosting their energy levels and renewing their optimism for the future.

As members of different generations, we built an understanding and appreciation for the struggles, the limitations, the demands both ages faced.

Recalling the topic beginning this diatribe, how to bring the youthful and the ‘ageful’ together, here is an idea with a couple of variations worth exploring.

Allow students or young professionals to live in unoccupied rooms in a nursing home for a reduced price with the agreement they will provide so many hours a month of volunteer time to the facility.

Or…

Open your own ‘empty nester’ home to a single person who can pay a lesser amount than the current rental rates with the same agreement of a certain amount of time each week or month helping with household chores, i.e. cooking, gardening, light bulb changing, and the list goes on.

And Ronni at Time Goes By shares more ideas to close the gap of perception between generations.

Food for thought.

13 thoughts on “Bridging the Age Gap

  1. Interesting. I have two views about the current situation regarding ageism (as they now seem to refer to it as!) Firstly I feel the biggest problem is the breakdown of the family, extended families seem to have disappeared, so that extended network of care and knowledge is lost. Secondly, and this is my experience here in the UK there seems to be a view that it is the elders problem for becoming old. We are a drain, they say, on the economy, expecting the younger generations to pay for care and pension, etc. for the elderly. The suggest that the elderly never had it so good as it was so easy for them. They conveniently forget that the elderly have paid taxes, paid painfully high interest on mortgages, etc, worked hard, provide health care and education for those younger ones. Sad really 🙂

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    1. Yes, it is sad. I think as families are separated by distance, we lose the idea that we are still responsible for each other. Caregiving, even on a limited basis, can be tedious, but it is also gratifying. It is difficult to think about growing old since we don’t have a positive view of aging.

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  2. For the most part it works really well when generations are mixed. For example, kindergartens visiting nursing, or residential homes, and playing games together, or swapping stories. Little ones love to hear what it was like “when you were young” or “in the old days!” They can help older people with IT skills, are non judgemental regarding dementia, or disability, and, even stroppy teens and pre teens can find pleasure in mixing with older generations. Mind you – aren’t toddlers tiring!!!

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  3. I used to get to spend a week on the farm with my grandmother each summer when I was growing up. So much fun. Toward the end she was in her 80s and using a walker. Not so many years later I volunteered with a group that worked with isolated seniors in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (lots of isolated seniors there) and was matched up with Marie. I called her my second grandma and drove her to appointments, went to just visit with her, went out to eat, saw theater, etc. We had so much fun together. That group still exists up there, now 30 years later. I love the idea of letting students live in nursing homes…and/or renting rooms out at a lower rate in exchange for some extra help with stuff. My husband and I have no kids…we should think about renting a room out for zip later on just to have someone young around!

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    1. I thought both ideas were good, and they weren’t original to me. I had never thought about it. I have used my house as an Airbnb, and my rate is usually low, but not on a long-term basis, a night or two usually. The idea of a semi-permanent person appeals to me.

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