Do you have an elderly grandparent you struggle to make time for? Are you a grandparent yourself who’s still working or part of the “sandwich generation” (supporting ageing parents, adult children and young grandchildren at the same time)?
You’re not alone. Many Aussie families are stretched to the limits. Elderly people home alone for most of the week, working parents racked with guilt and always rushing from A to B, and Baby Boomers spread so thin they feel like they’re failing everyone…
We need a different approach to intergenerational relationships in Australia, and Grandparents’ Day on October 29 is the perfect time to start the conversation. Remember the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”? Well in 2017 it takes a village to raise a family.
What I like about Grandparents’ Day is that it celebrates the important role older people play in our community. It promotes all types of grandparent-like relationships, not just the biological ones. And that’s how we create the “village”.
As a community, we need to create more opportunities for intergenerational connections outside of the family unit. This will enable both children and grandparents alike to benefit from story sharing, learning and laughter. Schools, preschools, aged care centres, home care providers, community health and transport services, and local councils can all help to make a difference.
There’s a few intergenerational programs already in place, but they’re not enough. We need to rethink how we engage the “village” in supporting children and elderly people alike. For example, any working parent with primary-school age children would be familiar with the tremendous burden placed on parents to volunteer their time for reading groups, canteen duty and working bees.
As much as working parents would love to do this, they’re working, often nine to five, five days a week. Imagine if schools, home care providers, and community health and transport services worked together to solve this problem?
Elderly people living alone at home could be transported to the school once a week to support the students in their learning and enjoy much-needed social interaction.
This would be a win-win-win-win, a win for the students, a win for the school, a win for the parents and a win for the surrogate “grandparents”. It’s just one example of what could be achieved if as a community we’re bold and “think outside the box”.
So let’s be bold this Grandparents’ Day. Knock on the door of an elderly neighbour you’ve never met. Or better yet, invite them around for a cuppa. Initiate a new intergenerational activity, like bring a “grandparent” to playgroup.
If you’re an elderly person, why not volunteer your time somewhere new? Read to children at the local library or create a “walking bus” to get local kids safely to school. If transport’s an issue, your local council can help. Most seniors can access free community transport on a regular basis.
You can also find or become a surrogate grandparent with the help of organisations like Find a Grandparent. It’s all about bringing the generations together. This can be particularly beneficial if you live a long way away from family.
By creating and nurturing intergenerational relationships in our local “village”, we can all help to make a difference to the lives of our children and elderly loved ones this Grandparents Day.
Gy Wallace, IRT at Home CEO. (IRT is a seniors lifestyle and aged care provider)