Grandparents Day and the Impact of Bringing Generations Together
September 9th is National Grandparents Day in the United States. Grandparents Day became a formal holiday in 1978 and is recognized in other countries as well, although on different days. This year I am taking note as a new “Nana.” I have a beautiful five month old grandson named Nash. So, happy Grandparents day to me and to you if you have grandchildren.
You may ask, “Why do we celebrate this day?” Skeptics may say that we celebrate the day so that Hallmark can sell more cards. Actually, the purpose of the holiday, as stated in the preamble to the statute, is "to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children's children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information, and guidance older people can offer.”
Across the world we are seeing, on average, 10,000 individuals turn 65 every day. One would also speculate that many of these individuals are also grandparents. And, while in part the purpose stated is to recognize these individuals and the fact that grandparents can impart wisdom and guidance to their grandchildren, we should note that this is a two-way street.
Inter-generational programming, such as the award winning inter-generational program at Kendal of Oberlin, creates an atmosphere daily where the generations can interact. New friendships develop, lives are enriched and overall quality of life is enhanced by little ones as young as three interacting with older generations.
A new word has been created and adopted to recognize this interaction between the generations. Grandfriends, are defined as people who are equal to or older than your parents. At the Kendal at Oberlin, toddlers, as well as high school and college students, interact with the residents. These programs are in place across the nation, and are an excellent way for the generations to meet with each other and benefit from sharing knowledge and joy. Further, as people are living longer these programs provide a way for seniors to meet and overcome some of the challenges of retirement by providing a purpose, allowing for social interaction, and providing an opportunity for them to give back by way of sharing a life’s worth accumulation of knowledge. The younger generations in turn share their enthusiasm and joy for life as well as to help guide and educate the seniors that they have come to know and “adopt.” This two-way street often proves to be advantageous for all involved.
So, as we acknowledge Grandparents Day this year, let us realize that while this is a day where we thank and acknowledge our grandparents for their contribution to us and society, we must allow for a two-way sharing of knowledge and joy which benefits not only the individuals involved but in the long run has a positive impact on society as a whole.