Including the Elderly
There are many places and organisations which seek to include the elderly and foster contact between generations. As well as some we have already touched on under other headings such as housing and mobility (see Cycling which I just added under Transport) there are those which ensure that the elderly have visitors; that they have help with maintenance and yard work – essential for safety, not just tidiness, if we want people to age at home: that they have outings and receive letters and gifts at Christmas.
One lovely idea out of many on the AARP pages is Glamourgirls. Students go into Aged Care homes and do makeovers and manicures. With around 40% of seniors in aged care not receiving any visitors at all, this would make an easy volunteer activity for High School Students.
Bringing Generations Together
The Basque Region of Spain goes further. Its Regional Initiative which involves a network of 50 municipalities is called Friendly Euskadi -not just Age – friendly, because it wants all generations to feel welcome. Apart from ensuring accessibility, it wants the elderly who comprise 22% of its population, visible in the community by enabling their active participation. It does this by having groups of seniors assess all municipalities on their Age – Friendliness. The aim is not only to create awareness but to counter negative stereotypes about older people. It also does this through the media and by running workshops for businesses – 400 so far, on how to help people with poor mobility, impaired vision or hearing loss and how to communicate with people who have dementia - a group of people who are often excluded. Dementia is set become a big issue which we will be talking more next time. Friendly Euskadi has produced a booklet on dementia which is distributed through pharmacies.
It has also published a "Friendliness – Guide for Establishments – Shops and Restaurants" as to how they can become more Age Friendly at little or no cost. It’s “I love my Neighbourhood” program to improve public spaces is led by seniors but involves all generations.
Young People helping Seniors with technology
Many communities already have young people coming in to help seniors with their phones and computers. Melville in Western Australia for example, another pioneer of the Age -Friendly City Movement, has partnered elderly people with High School students to teach them how to use their mobile phones. Another event uses a different High School to teach seniors how to use computer technology
Ottawa has a similar program where it matches older adults with teenage volunteers to help them with their technology skills
Several places are bringing older generations and the very young together. It seems they have much more in common than you might think. See for example, this wonderful experiment in Australia.
If that doesn’t highlight the benefits of bringing generations together, I don’t know what does. Should you have any doubts, you can see the results here. A similar program in the UK in 2017 was still bearing fruit many months later.
Can’t wait to see the one about bringing teenagers into aged care homes which has just started on television here.
Seniors sharing knowledge and experience with younger generations
Noble as these programs are, they do little to dispel the notion that the elderly are helpless and frail or simply behind the times or even worse, either selfish or a burden on society. For this reason, I really like programs which demonstrate positive ageing and where the elderly gain respect for their knowledge and experience.
Loncoche, in Chile for example, which we’ve previously encountered in connection with transport, brings older people from the countryside into High School science classes to share their farming knowledge. Y who have physical or cognitive impairments.
Guadalajara, Mexico, has an intergenerational program which aims to create an exchange of knowledge between children, younger people and the elderly. These generally revolve around recreational activities which are intended to promote health for all ages. So far there have also been 30 workshops which promote respect, tolerance and greater communication and understanding.
If you would like your city to become more intergenerationally – friendly you could take a look at Gen2Gen which has excellent ideas for getting started.
Seniors helping young people
There are many adopt -a -grandparent projects such as this one in Vancouver, which matches grandparents with a few hours to spare with families with children but whose grandparents live elsewhere because, as their website says, “Intergenerational contact makes healthier communities” yet due to relocation, migration and family breakdown, many young people do not have other adults in their lives to guide them through difficulties. Adopt -a-grandparent helps to fill that gap. The seniors are carefully matched and vetted and it’s good for them too. See more projects like this here.
Educational Tutoring by seniors for example, is available for all levels from Kinder to High School. To look at just one example, Oasis is available for Kinder to Grade 3 throughout the USA, either in person at one of its centres or via ZOOM.
In other countries, you could ask at your local school or library. Our library for example, has adult literacy programs run by trained volunteers and our local school is always grateful for grandmas and grandpas who help children with reading, cooking and crafts, or providing music or lighting for school productions. The state corrections facility is also calling for adult literacy teachers.
Boombox also in the USA, involves retirees from different fields sharing their experience and mentoring young people from disadvantaged backgrounds about careers, sharing networks and helping them to achieve their aims.
Oregon’s Grandmas2Go trains older women to mentor, nurture and support new parents free of charge.
The Grandmother Project is international, multicultural and intergenerational. It involves harnessing the respect and power of grandmothers to promote the rights of girls and women and to support the health and nutrition of children. Below is part of the program in Senegal which is about encouraging the education of girls and other cultural issues.
Canada which has more Age- friendly communities than most countries, even celebrates an Intergenerational Day on June 1. See more intergenerational activities here.
Although many of these are based in the USA, I see no reason not to try them elsewhere. The active presence of older people in the community raises their profile and shows that they are not a homogenous group. While some need different levels of support as they age, many more are active contributors to their community.
Including different cultures
Some seniors face more isolation than others. In Australia for example, 48% of the population has at least one parent born overseas. While more established migrant groups such as the Italians, the Jewish community and the Chinese often have their own services and support networks, many do not. More recently arrived migrants come from far more diverse backgrounds and may not have anyone from their homeland to turn to. If they have come to Australia late in life to be with adult children for example, they may not even speak the language or have much in common with their grandchildren or extended family. First Nations People come from many different communities which all have distinct cultures and languages or they may be isolated in rural regions. Gay, Lesbian and Transgender individuals may feel more isolated both because they are less likely to have children or grandchildren and because their life experiences may be very different to those of other seniors or simply because traditional discrimination and homophobia lingers on.
With 32% of its population having been born elsewhere and 22% of them being from non -English speaking countries, the City of Melville is the second most diverse community in Western Australia. To promote inclusion and understanding it holds its annual Harmony Week to showcase and celebrate the diversity of cultures within the community. It also has a Social English Club and programs and activities to bring people of different backgrounds together. It publishes a directory of services and things to do in the community and refers people to other agencies such as the Interpreter Service, Legal Services, Western Australia’s multicultural women's health service (see below) and Umbrella Community Care which covers “culturally tailored” Aged Care for over 1000 seniors from 67 different countries as well as gender diverse groups. Respect for diversity is taught in its Senior High School.
The City of Melville includes its Indigenous Community too. Elders play an
important role in Aboriginal culture and many communities are led by
strong older women. As part of its Reconciliation program, Melville projects
such as protection and enhancement of its natural and cultural
heritage, dual -naming of significant sites, commissioning of art works and
incorporating Aboriginal designs into public spaces.
Ishar is a multicultural medical service
Including People with Dementia
The City of Melville has also been at the forefront of being inclusive of people living with dementia. With Melville
also having the second largest number of dementia sufferers in Western Australia, it
is raising public awareness by publishing booklets and videos and running one
– to – one training sessions. By partnering with businesses it has persuaded the
local shopping centre to incorporate age and dementia friendly principles in
its upcoming redevelopment. It’s Memory Garden Café enables people with dementia
and their carers to socialise, but more on that in the next post on this topic.