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Through the Lens of Aging—Is Perception Always Reality?

Did you know. Joyful senior gentleman smiling while listening to his granddaughter and focusing his attention on a page of her notebook.

When you see an advertisement that includes an older person, what are the messages you receive? Are they messages of strength or weakness? Messages of empowerment or in need of assistance? Messages of society’s relevant members or the isolated?

In my experience, the vast majority of marketing to persons over 50 is not positive—with the bright exception of AARP and other allies. So, if these messages are shaping how the rest of society sees “us,” how do we challenge those generalizations?

Social think tank began the Generation to Generation movement to face this stereotyping head-on, with three main priorities:

  • Amplify a unique intergenerational model using adults age 50+ to encourage and enrich the lives of at-risk youth, and vice versa, to
  • Accelerate successful education equity efforts providing all youth—regardless of race, gender or zip code—with tools for academic success and life skills, then
  • Scale this movement to Push society to think differently so it acts differently

This primary priority advocates for more intergenerational relationships between adults over age 50 and at-risk youth. We believe chose this path because deeper and longer-lasting appreciation—in both generational directions—is found through meaningful, personal relationships.

The societal impact of Gen2Gen targets two ends of our population—first, at-risk children and youth. The causes and metrics are many—8,400 kids in schools in King County are homeless and too many low-income parents are incarcerated, plus they risk food and healthcare vulnerability. Second, over the next 20 years, the number of retirees will grow by 57 percent, providing us with a growing and largely untapped resource. The Milken Institute says this target age group brings experience and empathy needed to be tutors, mentors, coaches, and pillars of family support. Plus, persons over age 50 are uniquely equipped to serve children who have suffered stress or trauma.

Importantly, Seattle has taken notice—business, nonprofits and the public sector are all committing a lot of money to seek solutions. Our innovation amplifies best efforts with a human capital strategy.

So, now that we know the who, what and why, the next steps involve the “how.” When you visit Gen2GenSeattle you will find contact points as well as a handy volunteerism portal. We partnered with (VM) to establish a convenient gateway. When you click the “Seattle VM” link on our landing page, the portal pre-selects* your search parameters for Seattle, Children & Youth, Age 55+ Volunteer. (At press time, VM lists 229 opportunities to volunteer!)

If you are more of a “free-style DIY” type, check out these ideas to Create-An-Opportunity for intergenerational action.

Nationally, our Gen2Gen goal is to mobilize five million adults over age 50. Give us a shout or come visit and let’s get started! Join us in discovering that the real Fountain of Youth is the Fountain with Youth.

Movies & Mentors Celebrates Intergenerational Mentoring

Gen2Gen Movies & Mentors campaign celebrates intergenerational mentoring relationships on the big screen and encourages people over 50 to become mentors in real life. From January (National Mentoring Month) through April, Gen2Gen Movies & Mentors will include a public nomination and voting period to identify the top 10 mentoring films of all time, plus continuous recruitment of mentors over 50 in real life.

Welcome to the Gen2Gen Toolbox

If your organization is interested in tapping a growing source of talent—people 50+ with the skills, experience, and desire to help children and youth thrive—you now have access to this handy Gen2Gen Toolbox.

Need ideas for recruiting? Training volunteers? Community outreach? These free tools and resources help you move from considering ways older staff and volunteers can help you achieve your mission to recruiting and training them—plus a few things in between.

*You may change Volunteer Match search parameters on the VM page, in the left column. You may also find opportunities when you explore our friends’ volunteerism portals by AARP, Sound Generations, and United Way of King County, etc. Contact each portal for guidance if your organization wishes to post opportunities, too.

Contributor Andy Oden directs outreach with Generation to Generation Seattle and serves on the Steering Committee for the Puget Sound Age Friendly Task Force.