Bridging the Generational Gap

There has always been – and always will be – a generational gap. In business, politics, family and friendships, a gap between the generations has existed since time immemorial. And that fact is not likely to change any time soon. However, sometimes – like in the case of seniors and youngsters – if utilized correctly, this gap can actually be beneficial and constructive.

One of the pioneer psychologists in this field was Erik Erikson. He pointed out an interesting and perhaps lesser known fact: at around the age of 60 people still encounter emotional development. This is the last stage but it’s fascinating to learn that even at 60 it happens. So there is no time when we are not changing emotionally which potentially translates into a fulfilling emotional relationship between all ages.

Erikson believed that that seniors could greatly benefit from establishing connections with the younger generation, imbuing them with a greater sense of fulfillment. This is also the case for the younger generation; they have a lot to gain from forming bonds with the elderly. In fact, Erikson compiled a list of 9 ways that establishing a relationship between young and old can be mutually beneficial.

  1. It gives both a chance to learn new skills
  2. It gives both a sense of purpose in helping each other
  3. It reduces any unfounded anxiety that children have of the elderly due to lack of knowledge
  4. It helps children deal with their own aging throughout their lives
  5. It revitalizes and rejuvenates the seniors
  6. It diminishes the probability of depression for elderly
  7. It deals with the major problem of isolation encountered by the elderly
  8. It gives the elderly an opportunity to play grandparent when kids don’t have any (or don’t see them)
  9. It helps to keep family stories and history alive.

Despite these clear benefits, it’s not always so easy for youngsters to establish such a relationship. Indeed, according to University of Florida researchers, adolescents often find it very challenging to find something in common with older people. One such issue that makes it so difficult is where the younger generation is holding: they are oftentimes very self-focused and cannot see beyond the next hipster party or Instagram Facebook post. In turn, this makes it hard for older people to relate to them. There are some ways though to counter this: swap stories to build a connection; teach each other new skills that come easy to you (like crocheting for older people, computer know-how for younger people), preparing a meal together; scrapbooking and talking about ethnic heritage. All of these can really help to bridge the generational gap in a positive way.