Intergenerational Learning and the Importance of Connection

Hello classmates,

This blog is going to address my concerns about working as an adult educator in the social media age and how I balance that with the moral imperative to educate adults to succeed in a rapidly changing world.

Specifically, I am going to discuss three areas that concern me as an adult educator:  the first is the marginalization of the elderly in Canada, the second is the role that social media can play in engaging elderly people and the third is the importance of intergenerational learning.

Adult education is founded on a focus on citizenship for a democratic society and many times the adult learner is marginalized based on their age, literacy or language amongst many other factors (Watkins & Marsick, 2014). In Saskatchewan, we have an aging population and our aging population is also rural. Mott (2008), discusses the complex, dynamic and varied needs of the older adult learners in rural areas. This presents a unique challenge to adult educators in Saskatchewan.

It is important to use social media to engage the elderly. With an aging population in rural areas I believe that it is important for adult educators to teach social media in order to engage older learning and allow them to have a means to connect. I found a video on YouTube about a 16 year old in Florida who set up a “tech school” to teach social media to senior citizens.

The seniors were able to see their children and grandchildren on facebook, make facebook live videos, and discover how technology can connect them. To me, the most important factor is that the adult learners are engaging in continuous learning that also allows them to stay connected. Connectedness helps combat loneliness and provides access to limitless resources for continuous learning.

Manuel Lima’s discussion of The Power of Network’s talks about the importance of unity, interconnectivity and networks. Society is filled with interconnectivity and it is imperative that adult educators capitalize on the power of social media to connect those (such as the elderly) who may be isolated and unconnected.

Based on the importance of interconnectivity and interaction it is crucial for adult educators to prioritize intergenearational learning. I posted an article on my twitter feed this week about intergenerational learning. The article focuses on social interaction and participation of older people. If older people are engaged, they have a space to share and learn which is mutually beneficial for the younger generation and for the older generation.

Do elderly people in your lives use social media? Has it been helpful to them? Do any of the k-12 teachers do any intergenerational learning initiatives? What do the nurse educators think about intergenerational learning? Have you seen elderly patients engaged and learning on social media?


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9 Responses to Intergenerational Learning and the Importance of Connection

  1. Kara says:

    I love your post and how you addressed a demographic that is often ignored when we talk about social media. My husband’s grandmother is 94 and on Facebook and LOVES it. She has grandchildren (and great-grandchildren) that live at a distance from her (including the UK) and she uses it to stay connected to them. She may not make a lot of posts but she spends time each day checking in on her family to see what is new. I think it is important that we help the elderly integrate into the fast-moving, digital age and I always marvel with various users who are doing an amazing job of their online presence.

    Liked by 2 people

    • strauchc says:

      Thanks so much Kara! I love hearing about social media functioning as a way for the elderly to connect and stay connected. My grandfather lived until 102. He did not have Facebook but he did use email to connect and I know how much that meant to him. I think that being able to see photo updates and get a glimpse of what kids/grandkids/friends are doing is a really important activity for the elderly to engage in. As I said, most importantly it is a way to engage in continuous learning as well. If older adults are able to create a personal learning network, they would have a lot to contribute based on their experience!


  2. This is great post, Colleen. From a personal perspective, not totally related to social media however, my son attends a daycare with an intergenerational focus. I think that this early in life interaction with elderly individuals for children will be so valuable in the future. I hope that my son grows up with a respect for intergenerational learning and interaction as a result of this experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • strauchc says:

      Thanks so much Ashley. That is so great that your little guy is in that daycare. I also love that model and I believe that it brings many advantages to all of the members. Culturally, I believe that we need to demonstrate a higher level of appreciation for our elders. This is a topic that I hope to learn more about as I learn Cree. First Nations people hold a high cultural reverence for elders. Something that we could definitely learn from 🙂


  3. I agree 100%. Engaging the elderly in social media to connect with family and friends is a great way to combat loneliness and to keep the elderly engaged. The teenagers in Florida are demonstrating what it means to be a good digital citizen. Their efforts are not only addressing the technology gap by working to bridge the digital divide, but also teaching important digital literacy skills. I also noted that the teenagers were learning important skills as well – patience and empathy!

    I wonder about the elderly that are opposed to adopting technology, social media in particular. My father-in-law, who is 80, has major anxiety about technology. Although he loves to see new pictures of his grandchildren and to follow their activities, he will not buy a device let alone join Facebook. I respect his wishes, and I encourage the rest of the family to connect with him in the traditional ways to help combat loneliness and to remain connected. I think that our youth, specifically, may need to be taught the value of ‘old’ school methods of communication – especially when it comes to connecting with their elders!

    Liked by 1 person

    • strauchc says:

      Great points Coralee! I agree that there is a lot of anxiety around the use of social media for many elderly people. I have heard of a number of scams that are out there as well so there is a lot to watch out for.

      I do, however, think that it is the younger generation’s job to educate and inform to alleviate some of these fears around the use of technology. Of course that won’t work for everyone but that is the idea of intergenerational learning; they can share the positives and negative of both traditional and current methods of connection. I think this is the key component because it provides perspective to the younger generation (as you said) and it also helps educate the older generation of the benefits of adapting technology for communication.

      Thanks for your comments and your perspectives:)


  4. rberry867 says:

    What a fabulous post! The perspective you brought is one that I find is lacking in our world. We focus so much on the young ones that the elderly are forgotten. I see a lot of intergenerational learning in my community with “traditional” technology especially while on the land. I never thought to ask our Elders if they want to learn “new” technology (very few of them have cell phones) – this would be an excellent class project.


    • strauchc says:

      Thanks Roberta! I agree. It is so important to involve and keep out elders connected. I heard a CBC radio program about the state of mental health among the elderly in Canada. It was devastating. There are such high depression rates. The biggest factors included isolation and loneliness. I think that because social media offers connection and learning opportunities it could help a lot with combating some of the isolation and loneliness. Of course, there would have to be a lot of education around it. You are right, it would make an awesome class project!


  5. Pingback: The Big “But” | Advocacy and Learning

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