By: Nancy Verdin, Graduate Assistant, SDSU Social Policy Institute
Think about your circle of friends—they likely share similar life experiences to you, given their similar ages. But when was the last time you engaged in a conversation with someone significantly younger or older than you? A conversation that leaves you with a fresh insight into another generation different from yours.
During a recent chat with my teenage niece, she confidently stated that my millennial skinny jeans were out of fashion, and bell bottoms were all the rage. Joining in, my mom nostalgically reminisced about how bell bottoms had been her go-to fashion choice in her youth. Suddenly, three generations of women found ourselves immersed in a lively conversation about fashion, and debating over which jean style truly stood the test of time.
These exchanges, where everyone brings their own distinct experience to the table, are the building blocks of meaningful connections. Despite age differences, shared experiences can unite generations, while differences accentuate the uniqueness of their lifetime, providing an opportunity to step beyond the confines of our own generational bubbles.
Traditionally, cultures look to elders to pass down stories and lessons to younger generations through oral history. Yet, there’s something equally captivating about listening to the younger generation recount their experiences. Sharing our journeys—past and looking onward—creates an enriching tapestry of collective wisdom and forward-looking visions.
In the United States, research on intergenerational practices highlights that initiatives facilitating interactions between diverse age groups can foster mutual support and community engagement. These programs can nurture relationships by exchanging experiences, knowledge, and skills, benefiting all participants involved.
The SDSU Center for Excellence in Aging & Longevity (CEAL) is spearheading a new initiative known as the Intergenerational CallHub. This program is designed to increase meaningful connections and reduce feelings of loneliness in older adults. The CallHub is recruiting SDSU students to engage with older adults, and welcomes anyone interested in participating in intergenerational conversations.
What are the benefits to holding intergenerational conversations?
- Engaging in intergenerational conversations can reduce ageism and age discrimination among young and old alike
- These discussions can offer the opportunity to gain a fresh perspective, find inspiration and cultivate a deeper appreciation for diverse life experiences
- Interactions can mutually boost life satisfaction and learning for both younger and older participants
What are some best practices when having intergenerational conversations?
- Choose a topic ahead of time: Prior to initiating a conversation, decide on a mutual topic of interest. According to a 2019 AARP study on intergenerational friendships, common topics among friends of varying ages include children and family, shared past experiences, friends and hobbies.
- Schedule a mutually convenient time: Confirm the conversation time with the other person to ensure mutual agreement and readiness for the discussion.
- Embrace different perspectives: Recognize that while you might not share identical life outlooks, maintaining an open and curious mindset fosters a more enriching conversation.
Would you like to be part of CEAL’s CallHub?
Reach out to us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 619-365-5905. A member of our staff will follow up with you. We look forward to connecting with you!
These tips drew inspiration from the Intergenerational Conversations Toolkit provided by Changing the Narrative and can provide you with a more comprehensive insight into intergenerational dialogues.