Who could not have been in awe, moved and motivated by sixteen-year old, Greta Thunberg and all the other young students whose campaigns and strikes have drawn such attention to climate breakdown? They opened my eyes to what can be done - and what must be done - to reverse the trend. As a consequence, I decided to join Extinction Rebellion and have found it to be infused not only with the energy and enthusiasm of young people, but also the experience and resources of older people. The refreshingly positive mix of generations that I have encountered at the meetings and activities proves the point that we can all learn from and support one another.
In my personal sphere, I love the fact that I am constantly in contact with people of all ages – from family and friends to colleagues and clients. I know that if I listen, I will learn from them all – and I hope that this is an evolving, two-way interaction. To be around only people of my own age would severely curtail the richness of my life. And, in case there is any doubt of the benefits of mixing up age-groups, there is research that makes the point.
For the young, mentoring schemes for disadvantaged children show:
- Stimulation of new learning
- Increase in school attendance
- Increase in positive behaviour
- Increase in achievement
- Decrease in drug/addiction problems
- Increase in happiness
“every child needs at least one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her” Urie Bronfenbrenner
And the benefits for older folk from relationships with young people have similar traits:
- Stimulating new learning
- Increase in well-being – mental and physical
- Increase in brain and cognitive functions
- Reduction in the negative side of loneliness
- Longer lives
- Increase in happiness
George Vaillant has a great book on the subject, Aging Well.
So those of us who have little or no connection to the younger generation and would like to remedy the situation, here are some suggestions:
Plan what’s next - Embrace your future. Don’t just sleep-walk into a clichéd old-age, make it an enjoyable phase of life (it’s a lot longer than it used to be!) Think about what matters to you most, prepare for a new course and make sure that it includes young people!
Seek out the young – Be it within groups and circles you already mix in or new ones you join, collect younger people purposely.
Listen – it is easy to talk and tell and consider yourself to be interesting, but it is much more worthwhile being interested. Young people want to be heard and for their views discussed. There is a way to weave in your opinions and experience, but ensure the listening takes place first.
Love and let go – be there whole-heartedly for the young.
Happy age mixing, mingling and magic spreading.