Connecting Across Generations
Participants at 50 Fun Things® social mixers and workshops have come from all walks of life and a broad range of ages (from 8 to 80+). One of the 80 year-olds came again a second time and brought her friends the second time because she has a thirst for even more adventure! It seems that whatever stage of life we are at, we crave joy and meaningful connection.
The following article is by 50 Fun Things® alum, Sonia Even.
This time of year always gets me thinking about that crone energy... I got back from Arizona last week and managed to take zero pictures of the beautiful desert. I did, however, spend my whole visit reconnecting with family - all four generations of us. My grandmother - “Mormor” - is 95 and still our matriarch. She is my example for how to age with grace and dignity. I am learning that time spent with our elders is so important, the only antidote to society’s message that our value diminishes with age, that old folks should quietly fade into the background and leave the important work to the younger generations, rather than claiming their space at the center of our communities. This toxic message produces what author Michael Meade describes as “olders” versus “elders” - people who are growing older without growing wiser. A generation of Americans retreating to retirement communities, who have been told that learning, growth, and curiosity are reserved for people under 65. Erik Erikson, who is known for his concept of Stages of Psychological Development, believed that the final stages of life were defined by two crises: Generativity versus Stagnation, and Integrity versus Despair. In order to develop into our fullest, wisest selves and avoid despair in old age, we have to keep growing, keep creating, and leave a legacy for future generations. Essentially, becoming a true elder requires that old folks continue to interact with young people and society as a whole, which is not so easy to do in our culture. We are so opposed to slowness, so afraid of stillness, and of course, so terrified of death, we push the old away. But no society can be truly whole without a flowing of ideas between young and old.
I often find myself longing for more opportunities to interact with elders. I hope, as (we and) our parents approach old age, that we can change these patterns and keep our elders at the center of our families, that we learn to question and dismantle ageism alongside racism, sexism, and ableism. After all, we’re not getting any younger.
Sonia Even, L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and music blogger and mother of an active toddler. She also heads Minneapolis folk-rock band Lovely Dark with her husband, Travis Even. One of the items on Sonia's 50 Fun Things chart is to engage in and foster intentional connection and conversation.