By Lorie Ham
According to the United States Census Bureau, the 2020 Census shows that the U.S. population aged 65 and over grew nearly five times faster than the total population over the 100 years from 1920 to 2020. This represents a growth rate of about 1,000%, almost five times that of the total population (about 200%). In 2020, about one in six people in the United States were age 65 and over.
As of 2023, there are about 1.4 million residents in U.S. nursing homes, states an article on Zippia. But at the same time, due to improvements in healthcare and a greater awareness of how eating healthier and staying active can give you a more vibrant life as a senior, more people are still active and living life to the fullest to a later age.
But no matter how great someone’s life may be as a senior, having lived that many years, most are dealing with a great deal of loss. Some of that is a loss of loved ones, but it can also include loss of independence, health, financial stability, and even a loss of a sense of purpose. According to the World Health Organization, loneliness and social isolation are key risk factors for mental health conditions in later life.
Recently the chaplain at Sierra View Homes in Reedley, California, Caley Ortman, spoke to the Reedley Rotary Club about the mental health of senior citizens and suggested that the willingness to listen to what a senior has to say goes a long way toward validating their worth. This could prove beneficial to the listener as well, as many seniors have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom they can share.
An article on Bethesda Health’s website states that young people who have positive role models in their lives have a positive self-image and are less likely to drop out of school. Being taught by a member of an older generation can help children develop greater comprehension and empathy skills. Through intergenerational programs, seniors can mentor younger people, which can give the senior a sense of purpose and accomplishment and benefit the youth as well. Seniors who have experienced life challenges similar to those of someone younger can provide encouragement that there is hope for the future. Someone who had/has the same career that someone younger may be working towards can offer advice about how to succeed in that career.
Bayshore Homecare has a list of ten benefits that come from intergenerational relationships. The list includes:
- Provide an opportunity for both to learn new skills
- Give the child and the older adult a sense of purpose
- Fill a void for children who do not have grandparents available to them
- Help keep family stories and history alive
- Aide in cognitive stimulation as well as broaden social circles should a youth introduce technology into the life a senior
Other suggestions include playing games together, helping seniors with chores around their homes, doing crafts together, going on walks together, sharing favorite music with one another—there are so many ways to connect and enrich each other’s lives. We would love to hear any suggestions that you have found helpful in connecting the generations. Feel free to share on the Mennonite Insurance Facebook page.