Boosting connections among all ages

Age-friendly initiative has lessons for employers
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 12/06/2011

Having an opportunity to explore how we feel about aging — from a personal standpoint as well as in general — allows us to recognize that attitudes about age are most often unconsciously and systemically incorporated, something that’s been happening since we were young children.

That’s the emphasis of the Age-Friendly Intergenerational Initiative announced by Manitoba’s healthy living, youth and seniors minister, Jim Rondeau, in June 2011.

The vision is to encourage individuals of all ages to be a part of age-friendly communities.

Components of the program include:

• introductory education on attitudes toward aging and people of all ages

• assistance to child-, youth- and senior-serving organizations to create tailor-made plans that establish long-term, meaningful interaction among children and older adults or seniors

• tools and resource materials that support interactions.

Through the introduction of age-appropriate education on aging and older adults, the initiative provides the basis for respectful relations between age cohorts.

By taking a facilitative role, community leaders develop relevant, realistic plans to meet program goals and objectives based on the needs, capacities and interests of the group they are working with.

The goals are to broaden understanding of age and older adults; to create positive and respectful relationships; and to, ultimately, build a community where people of all ages feel they belong.

As part of the program, seniors and students spent time through the year to connect, learn and have fun in a number of different relationship-building ways.

The activities helped form close, personal relationships and included an educative base, with teachings about ageism, history and community.

Intergenerational programming can help illuminate that a healthy lifestyle can go a long way to preventing or postponing ill health in older adulthood.

It can also positively affect self-esteem, individual behaviours and one’s outlook on society and community in general.

The Age-Friendly Intergenerational Initiative recognizes age stereotypes go both ways. Through education and appropriate interaction, positive relationships between those of all ages are possible.

Equally important, attitudes towards age and aging may transform fear, denial and ridicule into a natural, positive outlook on a time of life full of rewards and challenges, just like any other.

As Fred Astaire once said: “Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you’ve got to start young.”

For more information on the Age-Friendly Intergenerational Initiative, contact the Manitoba Seniors and Healthy Aging Secretariat at (204) 945-6565 or (800) 665-6565.

Getting past age biases

Understanding differences

An age-friendly intergenerational workplace is characterized by an understanding that people of different age cohorts may work in different ways. They make the best of each individual’s skills and provide flexible work environments.

Age-friendly employers recognize people of different age cohorts may be motivated and feel acknowledged in different ways and find different aspects of their work environment more important than others. People in different age cohorts may view authority and loyalty to a company differently. Moreover, people of different generations may prefer to communicate in different ways.

An age-friendly employer can benefit from knowing ageism underscores a hidden dimension of intergenerational relationships at work. Some younger people may feel the older people “Just don’t know when to quit” so they can’t get a job or promotion they desire. Or they may think older people are “stuck in their ways” and don’t know how to change. On the other hand, older people may think younger people are lazy or resent them in positions of authority, thinking, “What do they know anyway?”

Acknowledging the attitudes about age and aging and recognizing stereotypes go both ways is a scary but important first step. It may be helpful to offer trust- or team-building initiatives that show how each of us view aging — to clear the air and create a foundation for respectful communication.

Everyone likes to have a good time and fun in the workplace is important. But age-related jokes minimize people and unconsciously or overtly place value on certain ages and take away value from other ages, such as “30 is the new 20” — as if 30 is not good and everyone should want to be younger. Don’t believe the bad hype — people of all ages have inherent value.

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