by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA
When I was growing up in the fifties, the elderly sat on front porches surrounded by toddlers and teens. It was a common practice for groups of children to visit middle-aged neighbors to listen to tales of earlier days.
Back then, there were no such things as “senior citizens” or “adult communities.” Nursing homes were almost non-existent, and grandparents often lived with their children and grandchildren. The grandparents gave the children time and wisdom, and the children gave the grandparents a sense of joy and lasting youth.
During the past half century, we’ve seen a dangerous phenomenon occur. I call it the “generation separation”—the deliberate attempt by our culture, and even our churches, to separate the elderly from the young and the young from the elderly. The result has been a tragic loss of wisdom for the young and respect for the elderly.
In the Biblical model, there is no separation of generations. All ages lived together, worked together, and played together. The generations were interdependent. This is God’s way, and it is His way for a reason.
Throughout the Scriptures, the older generation is commanded to instruct the younger generation in the ways of God, and the younger generation is commanded to learn from the older generation. This is not to say that the young cannot teach the old. I’ve learned more from children, especially my own, than from any other age group. It is to say, however, that the older generation has a mandate from God to teach the younger generation to know Him. How can this happen unless the generations interact?
Today, as people are living longer, it is not unusual to meet great-grandparents as well as grandparents. I personally know of some families that are blessed with five living generations. To separate the great-great-grandchildren from the great-great-grandparents would be to rob both of great-great blessings.
I propose, therefore, a return to the mingling of generations, for these reasons:
- It is God’s way of blessing all generations.
- It fosters respect for the elderly and wisdom for the young.
- It serves as a valuable link of understanding between the past and the future.
- It provides roots that, in turn, provide stability to families.
- It nurtures a sense of belonging and unity so essential for emotional and spiritual well-being.
If you are in a situation where you are separated from other generations, I encourage you to find a way to bridge that gap. If you have small children, bring them around the elderly. If you are among the elderly, spend time with children. Not only will you be greatly blessed, but you will be a venue of blessing to generations other than your own.
Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction for both children and adults. Her latest novel is titled In Black and White and is the 1950s story of an interracial relationship nearly destroyed by prejudice. Her latest children’s book is Poems for Wee Ones. In addition to writing, MaryAnn enjoys painting, playing the piano, and making up silly songs with her grandchildren. She and her husband Dom, a retired ER physician, live in the Greater Philadelphia area. Find out more about Dr. Diorio and her books here.