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Bridging the Generation Gap: A Multigenerational Discussion

May 2, 2016
Bridging the Generation Gap: A Multigenerational Discussion

- By Erin Dixon -

Erin DixonThe room begins to populate with teenage Millennials and older adults of the Boomer and Silent generations – both looking excited rather than skeptical, as I had admittedly anticipated. I am attending a multigenerational philosophical discussion hosted by The Grey Havens Group at the Longmont Senior Center. The Grey Havens Group - a non-profit organization committed to community, inclusion, imagination and literacy for all – has facilitated these discussions before with members of the Senior Center and their Young Adult sub-group.

As I make my way around the room, I ask questions:

 

Why are multigenerational discussions important?

 

“I find that these discussions show that the millennials’ thoughts are not so different from the way ours, as boomers, were at their age. It’s sort of like a reflection of your own thoughts.” - Sharon (older adult)

“I find myself looking for hope, always, in today’s world ... These discussions give me hope. These kids are thinkers and they give me hope.” – Rob (older adult)

“These kinds of things are important because for the teenagers, it takes us out of the wheelchair and walker. And for us, it breaks the gum-chewing sort of stereotype.” – Tana (older adult)

What sorts of topics stir these discussions?

 

Kelly Cowling (Grey Havens Group founder and Programming Director) begins a presentation based on “Geek Philosophy,” a concept that connects Science Fiction/Fantasy fandoms with imaginative philosophical discussion. It suggests that creative ideology improves cognitive function and critical thinking in children. She starts by showing various clips from Star Trek: The Next Generation, one with Captain Kirk (William Shatner) suggesting that a human needs hardships to make them fully who they are. These clips spark philosophical questions. After Kelly compiles these various questions, we reconfigure our chairs from rows to a circle. This idea strikes me because it comes from both the teenagers and older adults. Now fully visible and engaged, we speak with each other freely.

Multiple generations converse in a circle

Image Courtesy The Grey Havens Group, Inc.

What can the community learn from multigenerational discussions?

 

Ideas such as “daydreaming vs. escapism” are discussed, among other thoughts much deeper than I’d expected. I am inspired when I hear Nicholas (young adult) say, “In the sum of time, I am insignificant. Though in my lifetime, I am an importance.” What a beautiful thing to hear from such a young mind. I can only imagine what it feels like for the older adults to hear this, especially after Rob (older adult) admits, “Listening is one of the most difficult tasks as human beings.”

Kelly writes questions for discussion

Image Courtesy The Grey Havens Group, Inc.

In my opinion, to open up a free-speaking, imaginative discussion based on human experience and emotions between teenagers and advanced aged adults allows community members to connect and understand the views and decisions of those around them. This can be beneficial outside the context of “Geek Philosophy” and provide better community solutions based on transparency and honest perspectives of all age groups.

Participating regularly in community discussions can open the eyes, ears and minds of upcoming generations of influencers to the needs of the aging population. And there are more options for those leaders looking to improve life for older citizens and the rest of the community; like the Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults™ (CASOA™) created by National Research Center, Inc. (NRC), which asks advanced-aged citizens in the community their needs and circumstances.

CASOA

The next multi-generational discussion hosted by The Grey Havens Group will take place June 21st at the Longmont Senior Center; the time has yet to be announced. For more information on the Grey Havens Group and upcoming fundraising events, you can visit their website GreyHavensGroup.com.

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National Research Center, Inc. ( NRC ) is a leading research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including non-profit agencies, health care providers, foundations and local governments.  Visit our home on the Web at www.n-r-c.com.  Check out our blog for more news, tips and human-interest stories from NRC.

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