Today’s post is by Charlotte Cullen, a 23-year-old fan of Generation Y. She’s an English Language graduate from UK and since she left Uni, she has been living and working in several countries, including Vietnam and Australia. Currently living in Lyon, France she is learning how to balance working-life with learning a language and making time for all the fine food and wine. She reads a lot, she loves British films and although she’s not very sporty she did enjoy watching the speed-walking at the Olympics. She would like to work in journalism, and she proposed us this post for our blog. If you wish to do the same, write to us!
A few years ago my Grandma bought her first computer and together my family taught her how to turn it on. Now she emails, shops online and is a keen Facebooker who regularly ‘likes’ my photos. It made me realise that I have a lot to learn from a woman who was born before WWII, who saw the first televisions, mobile phones and computers and who is now going out to buy her first iPad. Anyone who has embraced that many developments could teach someone like me a thing or two. Especially, when I found it difficult just to accept Facebook Timeline.
The problem is, aside from my Grandparents, my contact with older people is limited to giving up my seat on the bus and making the occasional comment about the speed of their driving. But why do we live such separate lives, and does it do us any harm?
Well, it seems to me that as humans we are inherently bound to think that the younger generation are rude / have no taste in music / have it so easy etc. etc. However, according to the European Map of Intergenerational Learning, changes in society have made the generational gulf between the youngest and oldest even more prevalent. These changes, such as weakening family ties, an ageing population and geographic mobility have led to a decrease in positive intergenerational interactions, as well as an increase in negative stereotyping. Because of this, the year 2012 was officially designated by the European Union as the ‘Official year of Active ageing and Solidarity between Generations’. Part of this project aims to support initiatives such as ‘intergenerational learning’.
So what is Intergenerational Learning?
Intergenerational learning is a partnership between people of different generations, who come together with a planned project or purpose to engage in some type of mutually beneficial development. This could involve an exchange of skills or knowledge or it could provide personal growth such as improved self esteem, confidence and social interaction.
To find out a young person’s perspective I spoke to Rhanya Chaâbane who ran a project at the University of Manchester that brought older local residents together in a social environment with students from the University.
Hi Rhanya, Could you tell us a bit about the project you ran?
We ran a weekly event that gave older local residents, who might usually be a little isolated, the opportunity to get out of the house and socialise with people of their own generation as well as with students from the University. It was also a venture that aimed to give us students a chance to interact with a different generation. Every week we did a different activity, sometimes just chatting over tea and cakes, other times we all went shopping or had a film afternoon.
What do the older participants gain from this kind of experience?
Really it is a chance to have some fun and meet some new people. They often tell me it is refreshing company and conversation away from their norm. Apart from their family, some of the members don’t generally interact with the younger generation
What did you and the other students gain from taking part in this project?
I learnt so much from them! They’ve lived in a time that was completely different from mine and it didn’t seem like a single person I met had the same background – many had lived through wars and hardship. It was really interesting to hear their stories, to get advice and at the same time to feel as if I was doing something positive for them.
What would you tell a young person who is hesitant about getting involved in an Inter-generational project?
Stop thinking about it, just get out there and try it. Older people are usually way more interesting than the people you normally hang out with! They will surprise you with the things they say, the things they’ve done and break all the stereotypes you once had. Working with a different generation is eye-opening, and I think it’s extremely important to do that while you are young and still open minded. I don’t think anyone should go through life just mixing with people of their age – how on earth are you supposed to learn or appreciate anything if you live in a bubble? That applies to the elderly too – mixing between the ages can only better you, it can help develop practical skills but first and foremost, it teaches you understanding and respect.
In the past intergenerational activities seemed to be largely based around charitable acts towards another generation, maybe young people visiting a nursing home or older people helping out in schools. Obviously these are very worthy and important causes, but more recently it seems that new value is being put on mutual interests and personal development. In the UK alone I found information on cooking, drama, art, gardening and radio projects, and those are just a few of hundreds of schemes currently running.
For younger participants these projects can be an opportunity to gain skills that could help with finding a job in the future. Maybe take those first steps into a media career by taking part in an intergenerational filmmaking project, or into politics by joining a group that debates and campaigns local issues. The older generation can also pick up new skills; with many projects dedicated to helping teach IT proficiency or develop their knowledge of new technologies.
Whatever reason you may want to take part I recommend you find out what is going on in your area. Also check out the official website of this designated European year for some interesting and inspiring videos of intergenerational stories from across Europe.