Intergenerational Learning: A conversation with a 62 year old.

Intergenerational learning is an approach that involves learning between different generations; it helps people learn about the world, themselves and others. It is a reciprocal process that involves all, in a mutually beneficial system of teaching and learning. It promotes understanding and increases tolerance towards people of other generations. 

Through intergenerational learning, generations re-evaluate their beliefs and their understanding goes through a transformation. While learning from each other, people develop strong relationships, older people increase their participation in building society and they, therefore, feel more integrated with their communities. Younger people, on the other hand, accumulate knowledge, enhance their sense of responsibility and personal resilience. It is often the source of  trust built within a community which eventually sustains  social cohesion. Generations gain skills, values and knowledge when they work together.

Though it can be hard to trace lines while distinguishing generations, the world uses the age difference to predict who is from which generation. Therefore, to better understand what today’s generation might be missing from the older generation, I had a long conversation with a 62 year old man. He was born in 1959. He has a family with five children and he is a retired English teacher. Nowadays, he is a consultant in Education. He provides support to teachers in the implementation of the New Competence Based Curriculum through core skills program in Rwanda. He is also part of the British Council Education programme called Instructional Leadership. He has played volleyball, tennis and likes reading motivational books. His favourite activities are gardening and farming.

These are some of the questions and answers we discussed together.

“How would you define your generation?”

He mentioned that his generation is old and has lots of life experiences due to the fact that they have lived for a long time. 

“Do you think there are differences between generations? What kind of differences are they? What kind of experiences do you have of ‘generational gaps’ between older and younger generations?”

His answer was ‘YES’ and he furthermore explained the reasons for his yes. Some of the differences he shared were : Earlier, parents and nature were the first teachers of children while today, technology seems to be the main source of children’s acquired knowledge. “I still enjoy farming because my father was a farmer, in my childhood, I spent a long time with my father in his lands.” he said. It happens that his children are not interested in what interested him in his early age. He said that most of his children’s interests are technology-based. Some enjoy music and others are always busy watching movies on television and imitating what they see on the internet. Technology does not only affect today’s generations’ interests but it also takes away their attachment to their families. Youth today consider information from the internet more accurate and honest compared to their parents’ ideas.

Modernized medication is the only trusted source of healing and yet in the manufacturing process of different medicines we see in pharmacies, scientists and experts use traditional products. Traditional medication like trees is no longer considered as the first resort.

He also mentioned that there is a big difference in our diet compared to the 1950s and earlier. We preferred traditionally cooked food but today, the world is facing a large problem of malnutrition. In fact, according to the World Health Organization in a report published on the 26th September, 2019, there is a problem of children who are stunted, a rapid increase of obesity and overweight worldwide with no signs of slowing.

Millions of people are suffering from different forms of malnutrition. In fact, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese while 462 million are underweight. Among children, 52 million under-fives are suffering from wasting, where they have a low weight for height. Malnutrition is a complex problem to solve but, as levels of undernutrition and obesity rise, something must be done, says leading food health expert  and  Director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Francesco Branca. “More must be done to ensure people have enough to eat and access to the right foods.” he adds. He mentions malnutrition as a complex issue that is taking away a lot of people’s lives and causing diseases all over the world. He calls for a major review of how and what types of food is produced and distributed and what people take as their daily means. “For example, Africa has a cereal-centred food system and people there are not enjoying a healthy and sustainable diet because they are not consuming enough fruit and vegetables.” WHO reports.

We can not ignore that with ‘time’ the world goes through a lot of changes. Lots of people do no longer depend on agriculture for a living, and technology has instead taken the lead. Lots of things have changed with time and it is true to say that, it is where the world is bringing us. It is therefore important to raise awareness of the problem of malnutrition in our communities. Starting from our families, neighbourhoods and therefore spread the knowledge nationwide.

Quick check: Have you ever calculated your Body Mass Index (BMI)? BMI is an index commonly used to classify people who are underweight, overweight or obese. It is calculated by taking a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his/her height in meters (kg/m²). There are four main classifications for adults. A BMI of less than 18.5 falls in the underweight range while BMI between 18.5 and less than 25 falls in the normal range. A BMI of 25 or more makes them overweight whereas obesity is a BMI of 30 or more.

“How can generations work together to bridge the gaps? How differently can they act?”

Understanding changes which have taken place will help both generations in building flexible minds and have empathy for each other.

Second, it is important that we are always updated through reading and learning. As for young people, there is  a lot of knowledge which can’t be found online. Books, museums, memorial sites, conversations with the old will in this case help. Today, old people should also be encouraged to use technological means to cope with what is happening all over the world.

Promote activities which prioritize inclusive societies. For example: how villages are arranged; avoid isolated houses, create platforms where old people can meet the young and discuss a lot of things. It is the role of educators today to boost interactions among different age groups. This promotes cultural sustainability through fostering cultural diversity and promoting equal access to cultural resources for the current and future generations.  This paves a good path towards equality and justice. 

Continue to practice what is good; what has worked for the old generation might also work  for people today. For example: using traditional medicines, farming, etc. 

“Why is intergenerational learning important again?”

There is no uniformity between people. Generations have different passions and are engaged in different fields of interests. Secondly, some people face discrimination than others and intergenerational learning helps in bridging the gaps for the purposes of raising a connected community. 


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