Why is Intergenerational learning needed more than ever?
There seems to be a growing irony in our internet connected society. Currently we have boundless access to information and the ability to connect socially in ways never before dreamed possible. Email, texting, mobile phone access, Facebook, and videoconferencing all allow for instantaneous communication, often across fairly vast distances. Yet despite these advances in global communication technologies, many seniors and students still remain somewhat socially isolated within their local communities. Many students do not know their elderly neighbors at all. The age of the front porch, neighborhood barbecue or block party all seems to be relics of the not so distant past.
A recent article in Maclean’s magazine, entitled “The End of Neighbours”, outlines the details of this new phenomenon. Of significance is the conclusion that, “Increasingly, we live alone, even while maintaining vibrant social networks with like-minded souls, especially online” (The End of Neighbours). Likewise, the article stages that,
What brings us closer to people halfway around the world also makes strangers of those next door. We willingly abandoned the bad, chafing aspect of our old neighbourly ties; we have to somehow learn to maintain the good habits of compromise and personal interaction they also gave us. (The End of Neighbours or Stop Ignoring Your Neighbours – PDF)
I myself have worked with students for nearly 10 years, and in that time there is one important thing that I have discovered about this generation of digital natives: The have a need for the “chafing aspects” of real relationships. When you literally have the world at your fingertips, via Youtube and Instagram; when you can create alternate realities comprised entirely of like-minded souls; when entertainment becomes an ever consuming force – students still need to learn the “good habits of compromise and personal interaction”. Intergenerational connections have the power to challenge, realign and refine character. They have the power to move students into a broader vista of the world. In a world of endless information, they have the power to connect students with a real living history and wisdom. The Grandpals program, with its focus on these intergenerational connections, is therefore a timely and important undertaking.
For more a more thorough and detailed treatment of the benefits and timeliness of intergenerational programs like GrandPals, please see UNESCO Institute for Education´s School-Based Intergenerational Programs by Matthew S. Kaplan, Ph.D. Also of help may be Generation United´s Fact Sheet on The Benefits of Intergenerational Programs.
Why do we need seniors and young people to join hands and share stories?
Marc Mailhot is a guest contributor and co-founder of Grandpals.ca
Visit his site to find out more and stay tuned for our LIVE FACEBOOK interview with him in the Spring of 2018.