Validation Training Institute

VTI Blog

Intergenerational Connections

By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President

During this summer we had the opportunity to drive six hours each way to spend time with our daughter, son-in-law, and four year old grandchild. Regrettably, our son and his family live abroad, so we have to rely solely on technology to visit with them. While we were taking some risks during this pandemic traveling and interacting with our loved ones in their home, we felt that the benefits outweighed them. Our brains work differently when we are trying to find the vocabulary and tones to soothe, teach, joke with, and learn from our little ones. We listen closely to what they have to say and watch their antics with amusement.  Of course our bodies also react favorably to the hugs, cuddles, and kisses which we had been missing. We laugh so much when we are together and have so many funny stories to tell others when we return. We didn’t just babysit so the parents could work; we recharged our own batteries and made new memories together.

I was recently inspired by a thirteen year old boy I know who is building birdhouses with his grandfather to deliver to residents of nursing homes along with shepherd hooks and bags of bird feed. So far they have built and delivered 45 birdhouses plus hooks and bird feed to residents. My heart was warmed in so many ways seeing pictures of the boy and his grandfather working on this project together as well as imagining the good deed of cheering up isolated older adults with birds arriving near their windows. Even these days when person to person visits are limited, this wonderful boy found a way to bring smiles to older people he has not even met.

I have read about the inordinate amount of stress the coronavirus pandemic has had on young people ages 18-34. A University of Chicago poll showed that more than half of them felt totally isolated and overwhelmed, 25% rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor,” compared to only 39% who said it was “excellent.” Even with youthful energy on their side, it is a very tough time to face major new life transitions for them like leaving home to start college, getting married, and launching careers. Younger people have less life experience to help them cope and a disease like COVID-19 is completely new to them. They also react to an abundance of negative social media messages which further stoke their fears and insecurities about the future. There is no question that older adults also are struggling mightily with increased depression and anxiety as they try to live the final chapter of their lives in uncertainty and isolation. But unlike the young people, many of the older ones have valuable life experience and wisdom to share. The two age groups have so much to learn from each other.

I wonder how many of our Validation communities have ongoing intergenerational activities or have found new and creative ways to connect young and old. For example, I am delighted to hear that old fashioned pen pal notes have come back. I would love to hear about these initiatives because there are so many benefits for everyone. Please email your ideas to: