Appreciating generational differences

The Westlake Center for Community Services' Carnival Day volunteers spanned the generations. Photo by Alex Rodriguez

A hot topic in the world of continuing education is how to manage a multigenerational work environment. Recently, in a leadership class, the young man seated next to me groaned when he heard that was going to be that day's topic. He interpreted multigenerational work environment to be synonymous with millenial bashing. 

Not being a millenial, I was interested in hearing the information from his perspective and thought he had a point, until I heard some baby boomer bashing – and then felt a little defensive. One young man blamed the baby boomers for ruining our country, and expressed his viewpoint that these folks needed to stop being greedy and retire already, making room for the young to be in charge. Yes, the room was quite charged indeed.

But the point of these types of classes is not to bash others, or explain why one generation is better than another. Because that is not the case. Rather, it is to appreciate, and understand each other's differences because when we do, we enrich the experience.

The same holds true for intergenerational connections in the community. There is a great deal of research touting the benefits of intergenerational activities. Children who are exposed to their elders' wisdom and traditions, have a better sense self as well as perspective, roots and continuity. Older adults exposed to youth are able to expand their social networks and stay physically and mentally active, and improve their health outcomes. Communities benefit when all are engaged and feel included. Furthermore, age-related myths and stereotypes are dispelled. Opportunities to conquer social problems abound.

At the Westlake Center for Community Services, we have been working on creating intergenerational experiences and opportunities. We have partnered with the Westlake Schools in different ways, and are also forging partnerships with our local colleges such as Tri-C. The most current offering with the schools is a Senior Citizen Appreciation Dinner scheduled at the high school on Tuesday, May 2. The high school students will be serving dinner as well as providing entertainment. Tickets are $5 and are available at our center, as well as through Porter Library.

Let's not forget the millenials, after all, intergenerational doesn't solely mean pairing children with seniors. That's why we have been very excited about our partnership with Hyland Software, a millenial-rich workplace. Once a month we have a couple of Hyland employees come to our center to volunteer their time and expertise in providing one-on-one instruction to our seniors who have questions about how to use technology (be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.). The instruction happens at our center on an appointment basis. As the experience has been mutually beneficial, we are planning more, including a day of tours for our seniors at the Hyland facility.

Connecting generations makes sense. Together we are stronger. For more information about the Westlake Center for Community Services call us at 440-899-3544 or view our monthly newsletter at

Lydia Gadd

I am the Director of the Community Services Department for the City of Westlake. I am also a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:18 AM, 04.04.2017