Benefits of Multi-Generational Learning for the Aging

One of the best parts about getting older is having the ability to teach the young as they age and mold them into better, more knowledgable citizens. It is a time-honored process enshrined in the adage, “respect your elders.” The thought is and has been, as you age you become the person who knows the most and should therefore be revered. However, many people now know the pain of trying to teach their parents to text and send emails. In this way, society has shifted slightly. While there is still so much to learn from older generations, younger people are proving invaluable in their contributions to family and community. The following will explore how learning was done in the past, the benefits of this new, multi-generational learning, and the outcomes it may have for the future.

Previous Model of Learning

In most cultures, and especially in our own American culture, there is much to be said for the way people have taken to learning. To be fair, it has worked thus far. Much of how most people have been taught has been a top-down theory. The older generations (teachers, parents, grandparents, etc.) take their knowledge and pass it down to children so that they can pass it down further. This perpetuates linear learning. The only problem arises when we realize that this type of learning creates an information funnel. Details get distilled down, making it harder to create new ideas. When only previous information is considered relevant learning, new ideas seem less important. It is interesting to observe that this funnel all but disappears on the internet which is platform used extensively by young people to share ideas. This brings us to the new way learning is done.

Emergence of Multi-Generational Learning Model

Interestingly, when generations learn from one another, both benefit substantially. Take again the example of teaching your parents to text. By teaching them something new, you both now have a new way to communicate and share information more effectively. In doing so, a conduit of sharing has been opened and multi-generational communication can now be done in a new way.

We all know that learning new things keeps the mind sharp. By opening up this funnel so that the old can learn from the young, older generations can increase their cognitive functioning by learning things like social media literacy, or something silly like an understanding of memes. Though they may not seem like altogether vital new concepts to comprehend, learning new concepts can increase brain function, making our aging loved ones more astute and bettering their quality of life. Take, for example, the emergence of content on the internet in which teenagers film their grandparents to create a funny video. The grandparents are in on the joke and have fun with their grandchildren creating something new, but there is a deeper level of learning going on for the grandparents. In creating the video, the older generation understands social media content, opens up a new form of communication with young people on the internet, and creates a stronger bond with their grandchildren. All of these things (learning new concepts, communication outside generational lines, and strong familial bonds) have been proven to aid in the healthy cognitive functioning of the aging brain. Instead of the traditional model of learning in which only the young would benefit, both parties take something away from the experience.

Future of Multi-Generational Learning

The future looks bright for multi-generational learning. Children are becoming more and more literate in new technologies to which even millennials may not be privy. While teaching school children will probably forever remain the job of older generations, we can no longer discount the contributions young people have to the learning matrix. By sharing ideas upward and outward, all generations and ages can take and share information among one another to create content and new ideas, and in doing so, make learning more possible and more exciting for everyone.