Bridging the generational divide

For many of us, our intergenerational relationships come in the form of grandparents and other family members; but as families become more spread out geographically, that connection can become tenuous, and it has a direct impact on all of us in the community.

Data shows that intergenerational relationships have amazing benefits on both ends of the age spectrum. These relationships help shape how older people think and feel about the younger generation, and vice versa. The positive effects also ripple out — it builds trust, a sense of social responsibility, and reduces social isolation.

Linking Generations in Sherwood Park is a unique mentorship program that helps close that gap between teens and seniors by bringing them together to form new relationships. Throughout the school year, the teens and seniors meet through coordinated and structured activities that drive connection and community building. The program is funded in part by United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.

Senior and two kids pose for a photo during a linking generations event

Marjan takes part in Linking Generations because she’s young at heart and loves kids. She has experienced first-hand the bonds and friendships that form over the years between the kids and seniors.

“Our view of the kids has changed, and their view of us has changed too. They ask, ‘Where is my elder?’ We ask ‘How was your week? ‘How did you do on your test, how did your game go?’ They share parts of their life with us. It really lights up the life of those living here.”

two children and a senior hold up a linking generations sign

June, another participant, talks about how impactful it is to find common ground that spans generations. She was able to connect with students who were adopted by sharing her own adoption story.

“You get to impart some of your knowledge and wisdom, and the students accept that graciously,” she said.

June was also able to share her love of plants and gardening.

“They brought in little plants and the students got to teach them how to transplant the plants. We brought it down for the kids to show how much it had grown.”

Both women also shared how much having the students come to visit mean to them and the other seniors.

“The older people come year after year, it really changes their life. Bonds and friendships form over the years. It lifts the spirits of the residents. Some seniors come early, even an hour early and ask repeatedly ‘is it time yet?!’” said Marjan.

“The older boys act like they are 12 again. You should see the laughter. It’s hard to see the difference between the 80-year-olds and the 12-year-olds.”