Importance of the intergenerational learning circle

Intergenerational learning circle is conceived between different age generations with their own specific views, attitudes and values. Elders connect us and teach us our histories; they share the language and they show us our responsibilities. Our identities, values and epistemologies are all learned and shaped in cultural context and when the teachings of one generation are disrupted, the whole community feels the repercussions and there is a disjunction in the traditional intergenerational transmission of knowledge. When you ask a youth what comes to your mind when you think of the old and young generations, chances are the term ‘generation gap’ will be one common association. There is little doubt that generational segregation has increasingly become a norm in today’s modern industrialized societies. The social structuring of age has contributed to an extent the gap among generations. One important dimension of age segregation is ‘institutional age segregation’ where different age groups are isolated from the socially constructed division according to chronological age, such as the channeling of the young into day care and schools and expecting seniors to live separately in age-homogenous retirement communities. Among the various social institutions, the family is probably the only institution that is ‘truly age integrated’ (Hagestad and Uhlenber, 2005, 2006). With different pace of life and activities, it is common for different generations to live in so-called ‘separate islands of activity’ even when they are for example living in the same household.
Age segregation has various undesirable consequences, besides producing ageism which leads to the discrimination of young people against the old, it also reinforces the negative stereotype of the young among the old. Furthermore, social support network within the family as well as society is expected to weaken when horizontal connections between the same age peers are not enriched and extended by vertical connections across different ages. As the intergenerational equity conflicts of the 1980s and the 1990s in the U.S. have shown, generation gap threatens social cohesion and will lead to tensions emphasizing competition of the generations for limited resources and the fear of an intergenerational war. The gulf between the generations fear deepening with changing social patterns and demographic trends and imply an urgent need for deliberate program and policy efforts to address the disengagements of the generations. How then can intergenerational understanding be promoted to bridge the generation gap and enhance generational re-engagement in the family, community and the wider society? The concept of intergenerational programs as deliberate attempts to connect the old and young through program activities have shown to produce desirable outcome and increasingly recognized as an effective tool to close the generation gap (Newman et.al., 1997).
For intergenerational dialogue to happen, it is crucial to create opportunities for intergenerational interaction. Intergenerational activities encourage elderly and youth to turn their attention to building mutual generation bonding and understanding.

It is important to highlight the value of intergenerational understanding on local/national levels and promote intergenerational learning circle.
• implementation of the intergenerational learning in school curriculum at all levels so as to increase awareness of the need for generational understanding and bonding among the youth. In that way from early age we will develop sensitivity towards other generation taking into consideration and respecting their identities.
• creating opportunities for intergenerational engagement through intergenerational initiatives that promotes mutual understanding. This includes encouraging telecenters, libraries, schools and all NGOs to open up for interaction with other generations in the community, enhance the teachers’ or e-facilitators knowledge on connecting youth with other generations for intergenerational understanding through the incorporation of an intergenerational perspective in training, and include intergenerational service learning.
• creating intergenerational interactive space in the public domain so that different ends of generations have opportunity to meet in the community and have informal way of learning.
• The older persons should be recognized for their potential in bridging the generations through their volunteer efforts, such as mentoring.
• Community services (schools, NGOs, telecenters, libraries) among youth to older generations should include presentations about youth culture and perceptions to enhance understanding of differences and similarities across age. It is very important for intergenerational dialogue to promote a holistic approach to make an environment that the generations can integrate seamlessly. These efforts should synergize and move in concerted direction towards an age-integrated society where intergenerational interaction is natural across the domains of family, community and the workplace.

Trans e-Scouts is aimed to develop an innovative intergenerational learning exchange between elderly and youth volunteers, centered on the development of the digital competences of the eldest and on the guidance to the youngest to better face their upcoming adult life challenges. The main value will be increased empowerment, social inclusion and active participation.

The primary challenge is how to create connections for non-biologically linked old and young people that could promote the social growth, learning and emotional stability that often characterizes relationships between elder and younger family members. Trans e Scouts programe was defined as planned ongoing activities that purposefully bring together different generations to share experiences that are mutually beneficial. 

Sources:

1. Hagestad,G. O. and Uhlenberg, P. (2006). Should We Be Concerned About Age Segregation? Some Theoretical and Empirical Explorations. Research on Aging 28:6 (638-653).
2. Leng Leng Thang. Promoting intergenerational understanding between the young and old: the case of Singapore. National University of Singapore
3. Hoff, A. (2007) Intergenerational Learning as an Adaptation Strategy in Aging Knowledge Societies. In: European Commission (ed.) Education, Employment, Europe. Warsaw: National Contact Point for Research Programmes of the European Union, pp.126–129.
4. Hanks , R (2007) Conference call.
5. Sally Newman, University of Pittsburgh, and Alan Hatton-Yeo, Beth Johnson Foundation. Intergenerational Learning and the Contributions of Older People
6. Newman. S., Ward, C.R., Smith, T.B., Wilson, J.O., and McCrea, J.M. (1997) Intergenerational Programs: Past, Present and Future. Washington: Taylor and Francis, pp.55–79.
7. Kaplan, M. (2002) Intergenerational Programs in Schools: Considerations of Form and Function. International Review of Education, 48(4), pp.305–334.

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