Growing up in a society where we are our brothers and sister’s keeper allows us to be grounded in the knowledge of who we are and the simplicity of purpose. Our joy and pain are shared by our community as they are part of who we are, our collective conscience.
The experienced highs and lows are buffeted to allow us to breathe, grow and live. Over time the absence of our collective consciousness exposes us to perils of individualism, loneliness and anonymity. As social creatures we rely on acceptance and cooperation to survive and thrive, thereby creating partnerships versus rivalry when experiencing social dilemmas. The more frequent our positive human interactions are the more certain we will develop empathy.
Most emerging societies lived a traditional lifestyle of extending family households where grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, siblings and cousins live under the same roof or within the same yard or in close proximity. This communal arrangement reinforced collective responsibility.
The benefits of such a lifestyle are now marginalized and frown upon by a Eurocentric hegemony that forces us to be ‘civilized’ – being apart, by adopting the ‘norms’ of individualism and its perceived independence which ultimately destroys our wellbeing and sanity. We previously stated that to attain sustainable and meaningful life changes we must seek a framework that addresses the vulnerable among us, and that our development actions must establish changes in civic engagement, social cohesion, community safety and improved healthy living standards. These community outcomes are pressing as the world is in a current state of flux, it yearns for engagement, socialization, security, positive countenance and compassion.
The division among the population due to the current pandemic and the fleeting science mandates has highlighted gaps in the medicine wheel (health, belonging, identity, elders/family). These gaps have led to a surge in mental health occurrences, anxiety and depression as loneliness and isolation skyrocketed. Although loneliness is felt across the breath of society it is felt more harshly by the millennials, elderly and the shut inns. The millennials inability to network and congregate socially has placed a tremendous weight on their psyche and their feeling of belonging. It has skewed their perception of reality and existence. Notwithstanding humanity’s resilience, as a community we need to have a cohesive strategy to address the gaps affecting communities in this unprecedented and difficult time. These two demographics (seniors and millennials) can be combined to create a solution that lessen this wellness gap. The vulnerable seniors comprise three categories: (1) those living alone (2) those in long term care homes (3) those living with extended families.
The seniors living alone are struggling with life’s basics. They are afraid to go out. They no longer go on shopping excursions which was part of their exercise routine. Instead, their meager purchased are delivered to their homes.
They are inundated with the doomsday news about impending virus count and daily deaths. They are paranoid about their suscesability to catching the covid virus even though they are fully vaccinated. Their loneliness and isolation are aggravated as lock-down measures are implemented. The segment of the senior’s population living in long-term care communities sheltering in place are cocooned unable to be visited by their families. The images of them with their hands pressed against windows trying to connect with loved ones fill our heads with remorse, yank at our heart string and disturb our souls. Most of this demographic are dependent on others for their basic needs and are left out of the functioning of their community while living a spurred narrative of fear.
Most senior’s world has come crashing down. Most are on fixed incomes are unable to adjust positively to rising inflation and the supply chain disruptions. Empirical evidence has shown that people living on social assistance are food insecure by week 3 every month. Therefore, in this unstable environment their needs are not bring met, their safety and security needs become more wretched. Security includes economic viability and health. Since human beings are social creatures, their social needs are paramount to their wellness, their yearning for belonging, companionship, affection and relationships is core to their humanity. Without socialization, low self esteem and lack of self actualization at this ‘stage of life’, they become despondent and reside in a bubble of mental instability, anxiety, loneliness, depression, and isolation.
Our data mapping has shown that seniors living in intergenerational homes do not suffer the same faith as those living alone or in long term care facilities. Therefore, it shows that intergenerational living is beneficial to a healthy well-being for this demographic.
Intergenerational living has a variety of benefits. By finding ways to pair up unrelated populations (youth, millennials and seniors) to live together is good for society. The paramount benefits allow people from different life stages to teach/learn from and help each other. Currently, growing up is segmented – we tend to associate with our peers through school, college, social events and work. We gravitate toward a network of relationships that priorities and participate in similar activities as we become focussed on lifestyles that are similar to that of our own as we grow from adolescence to senior.
However, in traditional structured families – multigenerational relationship abound. If they do not live under the same roof, regular visits to the grandparents’/grandkids’ house are a routine. Such interaction keeps the circle of life vibrant. As these traditions breakdown and our population ages a lot of the elderly are ignored and left alone. Such depravity leads to mental illness and a yearning for ‘belonginess’. By instituting social Intergenerational programs, we can provide opportunities for different generations to cohabit, share experiences, knowledge, and skills that are mutually beneficial and engender positive long-term relationships.
In today’s society such a bold initiative will establish a new social contract that will create a paradigm shift and do wonders for our collective mental health. It will ensure the passing down of traditions while making a profound difference in our lives – as we can learn from each other through keeping our society more consciously engaged. A decline in social interaction is a major health risk for aging populations. Observed evidence has shown that older adults tend to be happier and healthier when they become engaged and maintain relationships. There is no substitute for learning and laughter.
As established, the development process is a continuous journey with various intersects, the pandemic is a crossroad where we can establish a strategic pathway addressing mental health. Through this recalibration we can remodel seniors living facilities by bringing the youths, elderly, and adults together.
No more old age homes, reinvent these structures by introducing nurseries, day care centers, and community markets into one common facility. In reality it’s about ‘breaking bread’, sharing a meal together in a common space, or simply passing each other in the hallways with a nod of reverence or taking an assisted walk in the garden. Such simple expression of pleasantries can help reinvigorate one’s mental health like manna from heaven.