“Wherever there are beginners and experts, old and young, there is some kind of learning going on, some kind of teaching. We are all pupils and we are all teachers.”

– Gilbert Highet

People are living longer than ever before. Children born today could live to be the ripe old age of 120! But while the ability to enjoy fulfillment and independence after retirement is wonderful, it also poses a challenge: How do we keep our youngest and oldest generations connected?

Intergenerational programs are social vehicles that offer younger and older generations the opportunities to interact and become engaged in issues concerning our society. These programs purposefully bring together people of different generations in ongoing, mutually beneficial, planned activities designed to achieve specified program goals.

What are some of the benefits for youth and children to be involved in an intergenerational program?

Volunteerism and civic engagement among youth is very strong today. Being involved in the community has many benefits including developing skills, values, and a sense of empowerment, leadership, and citizenship.

I have seen teenagers blossom after spending a summer volunteering at Memory Matters. I have witnessed them connect with a special person in the program and develop a warm, loving, relationship.

Our program had such a impact on one of our summer volunteers that as part of her acceptance into Duke University she wrote about her experience at Memory Matters. The stories were so heartfelt and mature for a 17-year-old.

Heather volunteered for Memory Matters for three consectutive summers. She came to us a bit shy and unsure of herself and left with more self-confidence and gained a great respect for older folks.

Heather’s time at Memory Matters taught her to respect an older generation and realize she could learn so much from them and she could teach them so much in return.

That is the magic that happens when the old and young spend time together.

Summer is right around the corner. What is your teen doing to fill their time? Going to the beach? Hanging out at the outlets?

Talk to your kids and grandkids about the benefits of volunteering. Believe me, they will never forget the experience.

Memory Matters needs more young volunteers. Our hours are flexible and our programs are fun. We even have a program that uses iPads.

Call us at 843-842-6688 to learn more.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org