Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

How Communities Can Foster Cross-Generational Connection

The concept of division isn’t foreign to anyone these days. Whether you’re talking about race, gender, politics, or nearly any other subject under the sun, it’s easy to feel pushed to one side or the other over pretty much any issue.

For all of the obsession over divisive subjects, though, there’s one division-driven concern that often goes unnoticed and unattended to: cross-generational connections.

Why Fostering Cross-Generational Connections Is More Important Than Ever

Age is a classic hotbed of division that has always been present in humanity — and no wonder. People grow and change over their lives, initially fitting in with youthful crowds before shifting to middle-aged and finally elderly mindsets.

However, in the past, before the days of public school systems and social media, most people naturally interacted with others outside of their age demographic. Family life — which was often dominated by cross-generational interactions — was central to most people’s experiences, and it was much harder to connect with others your age.

In the modern era, though, from a very early point in life, most people are lumped into classrooms that are narrowly focused on their age. On top of that, they use tools like social media to remain intimately and often exclusively connected to those who are their age and share their interests.

This modern ability for a person to cloister themselves away from anyone that is significantly older or younger than themselves — and who has dramatically different views and opinions, to boot — is precisely why communities should deliberately make attempts to facilitate cross-generational connections.

Tips for Fostering Cross-Cultural Connections

If you’re a community leader looking to create events that speak to all ages, here are a few tips and suggestions to both accommodate and encourage individuals from different age groups within your community to engage with each other.

Learn About Your People

One of the signs of a good leader is the ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence. In other words, you need to have a firm grasp over your own emotions and you need to be able to empathize with others as they express their emotions. This deep understanding is key to bringing together different age groups.

Remember that knowledge is power. If you’re going to try to foster healthy inter-communication between the various generations within your particular community, you’re going to need to learn about them first.

You’ll probably have a much easier time identifying your own generation’s interests and passions, but what is it that gets those that are older or younger than you excited? Each sub-community will have different thoughts and opinions. Take the time to learn about the social causes and current trends among the youth. Investigate what the older generations discuss in their free time. Look into activities that middle-aged people with fledgling families choose to engage in.

In short: learn about your people. Only then can you truly empathize and begin to create those cross-cultural connections.

Discover Cross-Cultural Connections

As you go about your research, one of the key things you’re going to want to look for is trends and interests that already transcend age.

A Taylor Swift concert may primarily interest a younger crowd and a nice, relaxing evening of bingo may be stereotypically reserved for those who are retired, but what attracts everyone’s attention?

For instance, pets are universally popular. Seniors and children alike are often intimately connected to their animal companions. However, at times the elderly can struggle to care for their animals. For instance, they may have issues providing reasonable levels of exercise or properly groom them. Finding younger volunteers to also help senior pets in need can be a great way to bring your community together in support of each other.

If you’re looking to host a one-time event like a fundraiser, once again it’s wise to look for common interests that already exist. A concert will probably attract a very specific crowd depending on the band and a community soccer tournament will instantly rule out nearly everyone who isn’t middle-aged or younger. However, a bowling competition is likely to speak to multiple generations. Experienced older bowlers can share their wisdom about form and ball-style with younger newbies, all of whom can willingly participate in the activities.

Create Cross-Cultural Connections

Another key way to bring different age groups together is by simply creating opportunities for people to engage.

For example, volunteering has always spoken to people of all ages. Hosting a volunteerism-driven event can be a great way to get everyone to turn out. Once they’re there, you can focus on bringing them together as a team, which is a wonderfully natural way to encourage connections.

Another great way to transcend age boundaries is to create a community garden. It doesn’t matter if you’re growing a small herb garden or tending to a giant plot of land, a public garden is a tried and true method of bringing together a community. Creating a shared space where everyone can gather together, talk, and laugh as they sweat and get their hands dirty is another beautiful form of natural engagement in action.

Encourage but Don’t Force

The key to all of this is coming at your endeavors with an eye towards encouragement. You don’t want to force your message down everyone’s throats. Division is rife in our modern culture, and the need for empathetic figures to rise up and lead everyone back together has never been more poignant. Whether it’s through finding the common connections or creating them on your own, you can be that leader, bringing together your people in newfound solidarity and love for one another.

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Integrated Family Community Services is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

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