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Sport and Competition

The Case for Intergenerational Connections

Working in groups with multiple generations helps everyone.

Key points

  • Intergenerational connections can help to bridge the gap between age groups.
  • Intergenerational connections can also help young adults to develop important social skills.
  • For older individuals, intergenerational connections can provide a sense of purpose.

Intergenerational connections can be helpful to both young and old in a number of ways. For young people, interacting with older individuals can provide a sense of connection to the past as well as valuable life experience and guidance. Older individuals can offer young people support, mentorship, and a different perspective on the world.

Meet Samuel and Sam

Samuel Benoit is sixteen. Like many high school teens his age, he is figuring out who he is and what he likes while looking toward college and his future. Samuel craves guidance. Sam Gralnick is a retired physicist and financial data analyst. Sam's decades of schooling, work, and life navigation have compounded his skills and expertise. He knows who he is and what he excels at. Sam craves guiding the next generation.

Both Samuel and Sam have needs consistent with their developmental life stage. Samuel is forming his identity and needs and wants to develop an expertise and a skill set that matches his sense of self. Sam is in the generative life stage, and retirement allows him to pass the torch of knowledge and skills to the next generation. He is planting the seeds of his expertise into others, which isn't simply altruism; it is a way of creating a legacy. This is a win-win for both generations.

The saying "'Tis better to give than to receive" is true. Research (Pedagogia Social, 2013) shows that intergenerational interaction positively impacts all who are directly involved. For the oldest involved, the effects are psychological, physical, and well-being. A benefit for all directly involved is the positive view of those who are older. This is both for the older adult and the younger generations. The meaningful connection, trust, and vulnerability that go into asking for help and giving help build a bond between the two. The psychological expectations of age change for both the young and old.

An example of how this works in a real-life setting.

Samuel participated in a hackathon, a competition to solve a problem. He was competing against students from around the world, and there was a strict time limit in which he needed to solve a problem. Samuel's project was a school security system designed to bring safety to schools using an app and facial recognition to better mitigate school shootings. A lot of engineering was required as well as public speaking skills.

The particular Hackathon allowed mentors to help guide participants in their projects. Samuel used this opportunity to reach out to Sam, a mentor with the Hackathon. Sam Gralnick provided guidance on complex engineering questions as well as on public speaking for presentation of the project to the judges.

Both enjoyed the experience and were thrilled when Samuel's project placed first in the competition. The interaction wasn't simply transactional. Sam Gralnick recognized the talent in Samuel and realized the young adult is an individual with whom he would like to invest his expertise. Both had mutual respect for the other, which translated to ease in asking for and giving guidance.

Benefits of intergenerational connections

For older individuals, intergenerational connections can provide a sense of purpose, connection, and social support. Interacting with younger people can help to keep the mind active and engaged and can also provide a sense of fulfillment and meaning in life.

Intergenerational connections can also help young adults to develop important social skills, such as communication, collaboration, and problem-solving. These skills can be beneficial in both personal and professional contexts.

Intergenerational connections can help to bridge the gap between age groups, promoting understanding, empathy, and mutual support. Such connections can also help to foster a sense of community and belonging and can be a source of joy and fulfillment for both young and old.

References

The benefits of intergenerational Programmes from the perspective of the professionals. (2013). Pedagogía Social, 21, 213–235. https://doi.org/10.7179/PSRI_2013.21.10

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