Elder / Youth Connections are Vital
It is vital—given the times we are living in–that Elders and Youth come together in both dialogue and action.  Rotary offers such opportunities through fellowships and projects around topics that younger generations are both fearful of, and care about—the future and the environment.
One of the most pressing barriers is making youth feel that elders are working WITH them—coupled with elders knowing how and when to share their experiences with gentle prompting, as opposed to finger wagging. For many youth—the main reasons for getting involved in social issues are—getting connected with others, feeling a sense of being in community with friends, and engaging socially. So, elders need to offer those opportunities in order to effectively pass the baton.
Elders also need to show up where the youth are. And YES—that means getting on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. Also showing up at their marches, conferences, and workshops—because that’s where Elders can begin to make connections. And just as important is the follow-up – keep in touch on social media, read and respond to what youth are doing and reporting, plus identify one or two youth who really want to work with Rotary and connect firmly with them. They always know others—and that’s how the youth team grows.
Key is connecting with youth who developmentally—have begun thinking more about the outside world, about social justice, and about personal action. That’s the reason Interact and Rotaract are so important. They connect Elder Rotarians with that age group as they move up through the Grades.
Elders should also consider that…
  • Small Works! Discussion groups of 5 or less are best suited for those youth who are still finding their own voice and need to heard.
  • Style Works! Differentiating learning styles offer opportunities for listening, as well as to engage in some hands-on experiences. Youth prefer going home with some tangible learning. So do older folks.
  • Timing Works! Youth are in school during the day and many of them work on the weekends.
  • Food Works!  Offer juice and fruit or a light meal at meetings.
  • Respect Works! Youth feel disrespected when elders put down or make light of their use of social media. Social media is their way. They are very comfortable in that realm and it works. Why not ask for and accept youth’s help with social media, technology, websites, etc.
  • Support Works! Incorporate and support the social actions that youth are already working on.
  • Listening Works! Elders need to listen first, listen second, listen third. Probe gently. Listen again.
  • Hope Works! Practical hopefulness is more likely to lead youth to action, to personal commitment, as well as to gaining a sense of comfort and inclusion.
So…what else do youth and elders get from engaging intergenerationally?
For Youth: Opportunities to practice--to test themselves—to show leadership—to shine. Youth know that Elder Rotarians listened and heard their voices. Most importantly--that their Elders have their backs.
For Elder Rotarians: The appreciation of their knowledge—the support with new innovations— as well as the commitment and curiosity of youth—offers elders infusions of hope and inspiration.
All the Best…
President Cleo MeriAbut Jarvis