This is the first blog in the November series highlighting topics related to Thanksgiving.
A few years ago, Rev. Beth Long Higgins, executive director of the Ruth Frost Parker Center for Abundant Aging, wrote a Bible study entitled Transforming Aging. The Bible study is meant for use by congregations as a conversation starter on the topic of aging. It is as an intergenerational way to engage congregations to talk with one another about aging. Transforming Aging is also a tool that assists participants to reflect upon ways to view aging through a new lens.
Once a year, I pull out the Bible study and engage residents, most who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s, in a conversation on aging. We reflect upon ways to transform how we view aging. During a recent session, residents named the aspects of aging that caused them the most worry. Wrinkles, aches and “a sluggish life” were among their answers.
We then turned to the question of what residents most appreciate as a gift of aging. At first, we heard people talk about their grandchildren. Another talked about how humor is the gift she appreciates most. After the first round of answers, the group took us deeper into the conversation about the gift of aging they each appreciate most. One said, “I would not want to erase my life.” Another said, “My spirit does not feel older.” Yet another resident said, “We are breaking stereotypes.”
I enjoyed hearing the group talk openly and intimately about their experience with aging. In the comments spoken that day, there was one that has been etched in my mind since the words were uttered by the resident. “I love to be with youth,” one participant said. Going further the resident added:
“They need us as much as we need them.”
For me, this statement gets to the heart of how important intergenerational dialogue is. Viewing dialogue and interaction in community through an intergenerational lens may assist in transforming the way aging is viewed.
How can we continue these conversations in our everyday lives? The Thanksgiving table is a great place for intergenerational dialogue with family.
Dr. Laura Carstensen, a professor at Stanford University, noted in a Sept. 8, 2016 Stanford News Service article, “Contrary to widespread beliefs that older populations consume resources that would otherwise go to youth, there is growing reason to think that older people may be just the resource children need.” I could not agree more! How is your community engaged in intergenerational dialogue? What activities are youth and older adults participating in together in your community? In what ways are older adults a resource to the youth in your community?