Today's guest blogger is Muriel Baptiste, Executive Director of The Utopia Connect Foundation. The Utopia Connect Foundation aligns people, purpose, and passion in order to create unique communities where people are “Well”, and everyone is “Adding Value”.
In the summer of 2011, I came to grips that Mom could no longer be left on her own. I paid my friend’s son Christian, then 12, to sit with her while I was away. Ultimately, I was able to navigate the incredibly complex systems that would allow my mother to be permanently cared for from the comfort and familiarity of her own home.
As someone who has immersed herself in community work, I recognize the importance of proximity. Proximity makes the access to information, opportunity, health, safety, and learning become more readily attainable.
It’s back to school time for kids and it’s also Intergenerational Month, which brings the opportunity for learning to the forefront. A recent story in the New York Times lauded praise on the work being done in Maryland to help bridge relations with the young and old and in an effort to counter isolation amongst seniors.
When intergenerational living is embraced and given the right supports, it deepens the learning, connection, and the care and compassion that is rendered and reciprocated between all parties.
I circled back to ask Christian, now 19, what he learned most that summer while taking care of my mother and he immediately recalled how it taught him responsibility and empathy.
Setting a stage that fosters more intergenerational spaces only helps to make better environments and communities where people learn from and grow with each other while also developing stronger social and emotional skills in young people.
It calls for intentionality in our modern day to focus on, and build out holistic spaces across cities that honor and promote wellness for our aging populations.
Flipping the switch on how we view and value our elders enhances learning but also wards off a slew of health issues that often come when seniors live alone or are distant from loved ones.
In the New York Times article referenced above, seniors who were studied said they were happier, more loved, interested, and felt needed.
There are health benefits to seniors but there is something in this for all of us to be able to learn and grow alongside each other. So much so, that a 12-year old could have learned empathy by taking a grandmother with dementia to the rest room or supervising her and giving her a meal.
It speaks volumes to what is attainable as we place emphasis on more and more opportunities for cross-mingling and learning among children, young people, and seniors.
Through my personal experience, I have also come to realize that the care of our aging parents is often viewed as the role of females. Intergenerational living, however, can help to shift that mindset, as responsibility and empathy are taught throughout and at younger ages to address the growing disconnect that males experience in the care of their parents.
The care of our aging community is ours to own and should be viewed and embraced as a positive and healthy learning and growing experience by everyone.
Indeed, proximity to other family and caring friends does matter when it comes to where seniors call H.O.M.E.
Learn more about Intergenerational Housing at H.O.M.E.: