The young and the not-so-young need each other. We always have. But growing up and growing older aren’t what they used to be.
Sense of CommunityCultural anthropologist Margaret Mead sums it up perfectly: “Somehow, we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, a knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future.”
She’s right. What used to happen organically, within the family structure and conventions of society, doesn’t happen so easily. Multiple generations lived in the same communities, even the same households, making the intergenerational dynamic a natural part of everyday life.
Today’s families don’t have that built-in mechanism for connecting the generations. Both parents work. Grandparents often live in other parts of the country. Extended family is truly extended.  We still recognize the value of bringing those of all ages together, but making it happen in meaningful ways has to be done with intention.
And when it’s done well, everybody wins: older adults, youth and children, and the community-at-large.
The Greater Richmond Region, VA, is one of those communities doing it well, being one of three selected for distinction as one of the Best Intergenerational Communities for 2015. This prestigious award of the Metlife Foundation / Generations United heightens awareness of the importance intergenerational solidarity plays in building strong, healthy, supportive communities for all ages.  The other two communities given the honor this year are Carlisle, MA and the Greater Plymouth Area, WI.
Generations United Executive Director Donna Butts pointed out at the recent awards presentation, that becoming “age-optimized” in the way that this year’s winner have, takes effort and vision.
“As the communities we are recognizing today know,” she said, “it takes time, investments, commitment and leadership to bring younger and older people together in a true partnership that engages and respects the strengths of each generation.”
We are proud to be among the more than 40 local intergenerational programs, festivals, events and leisure activities that serve the one million-plus residents in Richmond.
CATCH Healthy Habits is a national, evidence-based program – hosted by Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging and Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Gerontology – through which adult volunteers teach K-5 students the value of healthy eating and physical activity in an effort to combat obesity and instill lifelong values.
CATCH Healthy Habits is a Generations United 2015 Program of Distinction re-designee that was first honored in 2012. We are proud of our partnership!
It is an honor to be among the many organizations in the Greater Richmond area committed to creating an environment in which individuals of all ages are considered integral and valued members of the team. Congratulations, Richmond, on this well-deserved recognition!

Guest blogger Sara A. Link, M.S., is Director of the Greater Richmond Age Wave Readiness Coalition, through a partnership between VCU Department of Gerontology and Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging.