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Never too young, yet not too old

The new year meant I hit the top of that dreaded “hill” – yes, the BIG 4-0. Since that day, my 11-year-old son has been trying to wrap his brain around the meaning of old. New questions are surfacing around, “Mom back in the olden days, did you have …”

So, as I was tucking him into bed one night the following conversation occurred:

“Mom, back in the days, did you ever have lead pencils?” I replied, “Yes son, we did.”

“No mom, I mean like the lead pencils I used for school today?” Again I replied, “Yes son, we did.”

In a simple, sweet voice, he ended with, “Hmm … I thought you had to us a special pen and ink bottle.”

While the time frame that spans us is just 29 years, we are never too young or “too old” to learn from elders. Taking time to bridge the generation gap, can be great for young and old alike!

Benefits of bridging the generation gap

According to the Legacy Project, “Adults provide support to elders, most often to address health or physical limitations. Elders, in turn, assist adults through experience, emotional support, and participating in the care of children. Elders can help socialize children, teach them empathy and character, and give them an unconditional form of love they can’t find elsewhere. Children, in turn, can be an endless source of joy for elders, share affection and play, and provide assistance with many simple tasks. Children can participate in the work of adults, and provide enjoyment and love. Adults, in turn, provide food, shelter, clothing, and nurturance to children. And so a strong, healthy, intergenerational web of community goes.”

• Studies show that children need 4-6 caring adults in their lives, to help them grow emotionally and socially. Interactions of older adults, can product the following:

• Through grandparents, children have a better sense of who they are and where they’ve come from.

• One study showed that when a child is mentored by an adult, they are: 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs; 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol; 52 percent less likely to skip school.

• They experience an unconditional type of love that’s not found anywhere else.

• Undivided time and attention

• Someone safe to confide in and talk to.

• Teach them patience.

• They become more comfortable with the aging process, and can see themselves as a whole person.

While it’s beneficial to the child, it is as equally important to older adults. The following benefits were noted.

• Joyful freedom! Older adults feel the joy of parenting, but without the drawbacks.

• A second chance to spend more time with a child.

• Less depression, better physical health, and higher degrees of life satisfaction. They tend to be happier with their present life and more hopeful for the future.

• Children like to feel needed, and they can teach elders lots of things — like how to find some pretty cool stuff on the Internet! Children can also help older people, particularly those facing health challenges or other losses, see the world anew again, through a child’s eyes.

• Leave a legacy to make a difference in a child’s life!

Please take time to visit http://www.legacyproject.org/activities/activities.html for a list of activities that you can do across multiple generations. As Margaret Mead once said, “Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of a nation.”

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Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board. All thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the author and not the board and/or its community partners.