Did you see the recent headlines about America’s loneliness epidemic?

The story, based on a new advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General, said the lack of connection can increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day! I was shocked by that stat and saddened that loneliness now affects 20 percent of Americans. That stinks. Learning how to deal with loneliness is now a major public health initiative.

Last year, I went through divorce. Three years ago, I transitioned to full-time remote work. I have since experienced longer bouts of loneliness than any other time in my life. I’d bet many working parents and remote workers have as well. Loneliness can affect anyone. Many young people feel isolated and alone. Adults transitioning into retirement, experiencing health issues, or dealing with the loss of loved ones can feel it. Chronic loneliness can be very harmful to us. It’s been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. It can also increase the risk of physical health problems, like heart disease, stroke, and dementia.

While the surgeon general works on his solutions to deal with loneliness, I wanted to share ideas. I started Circa Legacy because I wanted to help families connect and understand each other better. Now I create meaningful experiences and activities that help them do that. These connections between generations teach all ages how to deal with loneliness, as well as many other modern challenges.

We can all help combat the loneliness epidemic by building intergenerational connections. This is just a fancy term that means connecting with people from different age groups. They might be in your family. Or they might be neighbors, friends, or community members.

Intergenerational connections can benefit us all, including improved mental wellness, increased life satisfaction, and a stronger sense of community. By building relationships with people of different ages, we can gain new perspectives and insights, learn new skills, and deepen our understanding of others. Bringing generations together can help break down stereotypes and promote mutual respect and understanding between age groups. It’s a win-win for everyone involved!

Why Connections Help Us Deal with Loneliness

Intergenerational connections have become increasingly important as people have become more isolated and disconnected from their communities. The covid-19 pandemic, coupled with our increased reliance on digital experiences, has created the perfect storm for loneliness.

Research has shown that older adults who regularly interact with younger people tend to have better mental health outcomes, including lower rates of depression and anxiety. Similarly, younger people who interact with older adults tend to have higher levels of empathy and social skills.

Intergenerational connections can also promote a stronger sense of community and belonging. By building relationships with people of different ages, we can gain new perspectives and insights, and learn about the experiences and challenges faced by others. This can help break down stereotypes and promote mutual respect and understanding between age groups. And that’s something our country desperately needs.

How to Build Intergenerational Connections

Building connections requires effort and intentionality, but it is a worthwhile goal. There are many ways to connect the different generations within your family and circle of friends:Happy family at home in the couch playing classic table games

  • Create a family cookbook. Gathering family recipes from different generations and compiling them into a cookbook is a fun and meaningful way to connect. It’s also a great chance to share family traditions and stories, and to learn new recipes and cooking techniques.
  • Play board games together. Board games are a classic way to bring people of different ages together for some friendly competition and laughter. Choose games that are age-appropriate for everyone involved, like Apples to Apples or Trivial Pursuit.
  • Share your experiences. At  your next family gathering, send around a notebook or record a video of everyone sharing a story about a common experience, like their first date, learning how to drive, or a time their anger got the best of them.
  • Take a family vacation. Traveling together can be a great way to build memories and strengthen relationships across generations. Consider planning a trip that everyone can enjoy, and involve all family members in the planning process.
  • Create a family history project. Collaborate with family members across generations to create a family history project, like a scrapbook or a digital slideshow. This is a chance to learn more about family history, traditions, and stories, and to preserve them for future generations.
  • Make a family time capsule. Whether it’s a family game night, a family reunion, a block party with neighbors, or cousin camp with the grandkids, making a family time capsule is a fun and entertaining way to bring together the different generations.

For more fun and interesting intergenerational activities, check out the list from the Legacy Project. Their tips include grandparent/grandchild book clubs, family newsletters, and family interviews. By finding fun and creative ways to connect members of different generations, families can strengthen their relationships and create a sense of community and belonging that can combat loneliness and isolation.

Bridging the Communication Gap

Grandmother painting eggs with granddaughterOne of the biggest challenges to intergenerational connections is the communication gap that can exist between different generations. Older adults may prefer face-to-face communication, while younger generations may prefer texting or social media. Another common problem is that values and beliefs may differ between generations, making it challenging to find common ground.

To overcome these issues, it’s important to find ways to bridge the communication gap and seek out shared values and interests. One approach is to have open and honest conversations, and to actively listen and seek to understand each other’s perspectives. Another idea is to explore new hobbies and interests together, like cooking, gardening, or art. This can be a chance to learn from each other and share skills and experiences.

A great resource I found to help you strengthen relationships between generations is the Intergenerational Foundation in the United Kingdom. They’re a research and education charity that promotes intergenerational fairness and protects the interests of younger and future generations. It’s a great place for older generations to dig into some of the issues and challenges affecting the younger generations.

How to Deal with Loneliness: Talk to Other Generations!

To wrap things up, intergenerational connections can play a crucial role in combatting loneliness and promoting mental health and wellbeing. By building meaningful relationships with people from different generations, we can gain a sense of belonging, purpose, and community that can help us feel more connected and supported.

As the world becomes more automated and digitalized, it’s important to make building these connections a priority. Whether it’s reaching out to an older neighbor or inviting younger relatives to participate in family traditions, there are many ways to embrace intergenerational relationships and build a stronger sense of community.

Circa Legacy can help. We love working with families to create family cook books, tribute books, or providing fun activities to do at your next family game night. If you need an interviewer for your family reunion or a writer to compile shared experiences from your family members, please reach out to Keesia at keesiaw@circalegacy.com. We’d love to help you connect the different generations in your family!

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Young man with curly hair and short beard wearing a white button-up shirt holds a small notebook with advice from his dear mother. These make great high school graduate gifts.