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I’ve just returned from Mexico and feel fortunate to have visited with so many of my family again, four generations of us, all getting together for all sorts of occasions.
Although the holidays were a big part of it, Las Posadas, Christmas, New Years, Three Kings Day, we also gathered for my mom’s college graduation, yay mom, and a few birthdays, too. You name it, we celebrated it.
In collaboration with SCAN Health Plan, one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit Medicare Advantage plans, serving nearly 200,000 members in California. #GatherAndShareWithSCAN
Of all the fun, watching great aunts, great uncles and grandparents playing and talking with their great nephews, great nieces and grandchildren, always ranks as one of the highlights of these get-togethers for me.
I’m sure you know the kinds of beautiful multigenerational interactions I’m talking about; a favorite aunt in a tête-à-tête with her niece who’s sharing her plans for college, or feelings about someone special; a grandmother tapping a balloon just out of reach of a laughing grandson; an uncle sitting at the keyboard playing a duet with the next family prodigy.
I’m always struck by the beauty of it all. So many treasures exchanged, the big three, of course, knowledge, wisdom, and experience; but also softer values like empathy, inclusion, culture, and heritage.
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Probably the thing that struck me most this time was how the treasures don’t just flow in one direction. The older generation shares much, but the younger generation has plenty to contribute as well. The younger contributes values we may sometimes overlook, like youthful exuberance, the therapeutic touch of a warm and genuine hug, respect, loving care, security, purpose, even the latest insight into the Next Big Thing in technology.
3 Fun Activities for Connecting the Generations
In honor of all this sharing, I wanted to suggest these three ideas for fun, multi-generational, family activities:
- The Family Cook-Off: Pair grandparents with grandchildren and cook something together, maybe as a competition, “Chopped” style, or just to share without competing. The middle generation can be the judges or tasters.
- Movie Night: A double feature. The older generation shares a classic movie they love, then the younger generation shares one that speaks to them. Are there any similarities?
- Share a Skill: Everyone has something to teach. In this activity, each generation teaches the other a skill. Maybe a youngster is tech savvy and can teach the rest of the family how to communicate through video, or maybe she can show how to download a book to a tablet, etc. The older generation can teach something, too—a lost art or craft, how to knit, how to play an instrument, etc.
Taking Care of One Another
Of course, it’s not uncommon, while living or interacting as a multi-generational family, for some needed caregiving to take place, sometimes on a daily basis. Those responsible as primary caregivers often face a unique set of challenges, along with the many benefits of multi-generational living. So I wanted to share here three common challenges to think about:
All Day Balance
Juggling multi-generational caregiving and work, medications and personal responsibilities, and so much more, the average family caregiver is a working mother of school-aged children. Just knowing what’s next and keeping all the proverbial balls in the air can be a significant organizational and logistical challenge in itself.
Caregivers are devoted to taking care of those in their care, while still managing their own homes and families. There’s little time to relax. From early morning to late at night, most caregivers find they must cut back on their own, already limited, personal hours to fulfill their duties as caregivers.
Taking care of others requires taking care of themselves, but self-care often falls to the bottom of their daily to-do list. This means caregivers often neglect their own physical and mental health to keep up their busy schedules.
The challenge for caregivers is to pay extra attention to themselves to find respite and to re-energize. Paying attention to their bodies and making time for themselves will help keep them in good health, so they can manage both daily and future challenges, while caring for loved ones even better. Is there someone, or a group of others, who can hold down the fort while she takes a day off?
Maybe a bit more pragmatically, caregivers often do a lot of lifting, pushing, and pulling. Is there anyone who can stop by for a few minutes for a little extra help during these tasks?
In spite of the challenges of caregiving, in a multi-generational family, there are many benefits for all, including the caregiver, the person being cared for, and others, like children, in the home. The beautiful multigenerational interactions I witnessed in my latest trip to Mexico are just some of those benefits.
Resources for Caregivers
Below, I’ve included some resources for caregivers from the great folks at SCAN. Since its founding in 1977, SCAN has been a mission-driven organization dedicated to keeping seniors healthy and independent.
Follow the conversation on social media with the #GatherAndShareWithSCAN hashtag.