Building Intergenerational Community
General Assembly 2006 Event 2019
Sponsor: Young Religious Unitarian Universalists
Speaker: Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward
Sitting in a large circle, the seventy workshop participants answered these questions: your name, when you're from, what you like about your age, and what you don't like about your age. The group included people ages 14 to 80, and answers covered a range of the physical, mental, spiritual, and societal aspects of aging. Youth reported loving their strength, possibilities, and ability to survive on little sleep, while regretting that society doesn't always take them seriously and tends to brush off their ideas as unrealistic. (Some elders reported the same problem.) Older folks reported loving their wealth of experience, their ease with themselves, and their post-retirement opportunities, while regretting their failing physical state. The sharing took more than half an hour.
Betty-Jeanne Rueters-Ward, the workshop leader, suggested this exercise as an excellent way to bring out issues of how people perceive their own age and generation. If there's an opportunity to use them, she suggested adding two more questions: what you've learned from someone older than you, and what you've learned from someone younger than you.
Next, each person in the group spent a few minutes writing about how what's happened in their lives has affected their relationships with people of other ages. Participants discussed their experiences in groups of eight to ten people, moving on to consider these additional questions:
- How do the messages and stereotypes we've experience about age manifest themselves in our communities, congregations, etc.? What does ageism feel/look/sound like?
- How do these age-based images serve as barriers to forming authentic relationships with folks of other ages?
- What can we do to break down these barriers between different age groups? For your whole congregation but also for GA?
Finally, we imagined our ideal intergenerational community, asking: "What were some of the characteristics of the community? Who was there? What was happening? What wisdom were youth contributing? Children? Adults? Elders?"
Reported by Margy Levine Young; edited by Jone Johnson Lewis.