VICTORIA, British Columbia - May 31, 2013 - From the cliffs of St. John’s to the surf of Tofino, from Inuvik to Windsor, cities coast to coast to coast will be encouraging young and old to say hello and get to know each other better by recognizing today, June 1st as Intergenerational Day Canada .
For Sharon MacKenzie, Intergenerational Day Canada started 4 years go when the BC teacher was working on World Elder Abuse Awareness projects with teens. The success of one project led to an epiphany. “The kids realized that the best way to stop ageism and mistreatment of people of any age, was to prevent it. Perhaps a special national day that encouraged building relationships between younger and older people was the key.” June 1st was chosen because of its close proximity to UN World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15th. It was billed as a reminder that there is a solution for mistreatment of all ages.
With the late June Callwood as an early mentor, and thirty years of experience in the field, Sharon is a major force in intergenerational relations in Canada. In 2009, she won the B.C. Premier’s award for her work in Vernon, BC. She became the primary researcher and author of three core intergenerational government resources, linking health and education. Sharon continues to work closely with agencies and groups in the fight against ageism, always pushing for awareness of how bridging generations respectfully restores and strengthens community.
As a result of the hard work of Sharon, Executive Director of BC based i2i Intergenerational Society of Canada (www.intergenerational.ca) and a small group of volunteers, this 4th annual IG Day Canada includes a record number of Canadian cities.
“We reached out to cities across Canada and everyone embraced the idea.” says MacKenzie. “The number of Canadian cities acknowledging this focus day has grown from seven to 96 in just one year with representation from every province and 2 territories. Four provincial governments have proclaimed the day as well.”
Intergenerational Day Canada June 1st provides an easy opportunity to raise awareness in classrooms and in daily life of the many benefits that simple and respectful connections between generations bring to education, health and community safety. Stereotypes of both young and older people are broken down when they learn about each other. Isolation is diminished and empathy grows in both directions. Intergenerational Day Canada makes a powerful statement about the value of generational connecting within each and everyone’s neighbourhood.
“The message is being heard across the nation. It’s time for younger and older persons to re-connect, stay connected and have fun doing so. As my friend June Callwood said of our work, ‘This has such a strong ethical base, and so much compassion. It will, it WILL spread everywhere. It is a great idea whose time has come.’”
Individuals and families are increasingly mobile in our country due to work and educational opportunities, making it difficult to maintain regular contact between generations. Immigration, high costs of travel and family breakdowns all contribute to shifting social circles which can lead to isolation and generational disconnect.
Workers often travel in age-related networks, young children are in primary schools, teens are in high schools, older adults are moving to retirement communities and seniors homes. We do all of this with an eye to efficiency of service, but what is our loss in breaking these generational connections?
Intergenerational activities are an untapped resource. They are rich in personal connections and provide opportunities to practice personal responsibility and empathy. We spend tax dollars attempting to help isolated teens, neglected children and disconnected older adults. In many cases these two generations would solve their own problems just being together, guided by a respectful and safe plan. Reaching out to one another is a priceless first step.
Celebration of Intergenerational Day Canada June 1st can be as simple as giving a smile or a kind word, making a phone call to your grandmother or saying hello to a skateboarder. Calgary is taking this one step further with two public events where they are expecting over 900 youth and seniors (email@example.com) to celebrate together.
Beyond a one-day event, an innovative intergenerational immersion project in Williams Lake, BC sees an elementary school class move into a temporary classroom at Williams Lake Seniors’ Village for two full months of the school year. They combine curriculum, volunteerism and one-on-one visitations. The project is a life-changer for all participants.
Communities across the nation are calling us to action on June 1st Intergenerational Day Canada. Keep it simple. Be respectful. Have fun.
For further information or to donate, go to i2i Intergenerational Society of Canada www.intergenerational.ca Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance or to volunteer.