Intergenerational Learning

by Mike Snyder


I have been sending out emails and video links this month to focus on Intergenerational Learning, which sounds like a big fancy term and might be a little intimidating at first glance. So I thought I would send this out to try and help others see exactly what this looks like, or can look like, in daily life.

Recently I learned about a story where a young man wanted to learn how to drive so his grandpa took him to a parking lot to teach him how to drive a stick (manual transmission, lost art these days). During the time spent together the young man talked about wanting to buy a truck so that he would have something to go hunting in when he turned 16. That’s when the grandpa took over and went and found a little truck for $300 to purchase. But that’s the easy part, the cool part about this story is that the grandpa has skills the young man does not, nor does the young man’s father. The grandpa had found a truck that was a “project” for him and his grandson to work on, creating a new bond between the two. Now they both spend hours after school every day working on the truck, and learning from one another. It might seem that the learning is all being done on the grandson’s part, but not so fast. The grandpa is learning to see the world through the eyes of a 15 year old again, with all the pending excitement the future has to bring. He is also learning how to be a friend to someone who is quite different from himself in terms of age, likes, dislikes, etc. But they both have found a common bound, and this little friendship that has formed has been a blessing to them both. This is a true story and one that warms my heart, I know it’s true because this is my son and my dad. This all happened last weekend while my wife and I were away and I thought it was a wonderful yet simple example of how Intergenerational Learning (that fancy term again) looks in daily life. What do you know that you can share with someone younger or older than yourself, and in turn what can you learn from them? My guess is A LOT!


Looks like the smoke has returned to our area but along with it came the most beautiful sunrise to start our day, a little reminder that even in the daily struggles we go through there is often something beautiful taking place at the same time. While we learn more about Intergenerational Learning, I thought it would be fun to look at how our children teach us. We often focus on how we are teaching our children, but there is a lot to be learned from the little ones. Here are just a few…

  1. Every day is a fresh start – “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” – L.M. Montgomery
  2. Creative pursuits are fun and good for you – “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
  3. Be courageous – “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
  4. Laugh every day – “A day without laughter is a day wasted.” – Charlie Chaplin
  5. Be active – “Play energizes and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities.” – Stuart Brown
  6. Nurture friendship – “In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” – Khalil Gibran
  7. Be the hero – “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” – Nora Ephron
  8. Scars are badges of honor – “Every day you either see a scar or courage. Where you dwell will define your struggle.” – Dodinsky
  9. Try new things – “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide
  10. Notice the little things – “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault


I found this article and wanted to pass it along for others to enjoy as well. We often associate with others based on similar likes/dislikes, age, kids or no kids, etc. By doing this we are limiting our friendships that could potentially add great value to our lives. There are many ways to intentionally involve ourselves in the lives of others who are “outside” of our normal friend group. Have you ever thought about donating some time at an elderly care facility to do something you enjoy like playing cards or chess, reading to someone, or just sitting with another human and hearing about his/her life story as you share yours? It’s a rewarding experience I can assure you. How about volunteering in an elementary school, perhaps re-connecting with that mentor from college to see if you might visit and share some of your work experience with the current young adults in those classes? There are many ways we can break the mold of what we have considered a friend and seek to begin new relationships outside of our comfort zone.

“Bridging the generation gap not only increases the friend pool, but it also expands and supports mental well-being,” Anna Kudak, co-author of What Happy Women Do, told the magazine. “Friendships with older and younger people help broaden your perspective, which in turn allows you to have compassion and empathy in your day-to-day life.”

I think you will enjoy this article as much as I did, for example I did not know that Bette Midler and 50 Cent were dear friends (some of you are asking who or what is 50 Cent right about now).


We have talked about a project similar to this in the past, and we believe there is a great opportunity for us to bridge generations via Intergenerational Learning Opportunities right here in our communities. It truly is a BEAUTIFUL thing!

The Intergenerational Learning Center

The Intergenerational Learning Center (ILC) is an award-winning child care program located within Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle. All children are welcome.

Both planned and spontaneous activities and programs for children take place throughout the building and campus which is also home to more than 400 older adults. Five days a week, the children and residents come together in a variety of planned activities such as music, dancing, art, lunch, storytelling or just visiting. These activities result in mutual benefits for both generations. This enhances the opportunities for children and people of all ages to have frequent interaction and is an integral part of the Mount’s intergenerational community.

There are some excellent videos showing the interaction between young and old at this facility here, please take a minute to watch one or two of them to get a better understanding on how this would benefit our community.

You can read more about this program here:

For those of you who have been away, you have been missed. For those of you who have been here, you have done great work! Now we gather back together to start a new year, as today is a new day that begins a new month. This month we will be celebrating Intergenerational Learning and I will be sending out information over the month that will hopefully enlighten you about the benefits of younger children learning from our more seasons mentors.

A child, more than anyone else, is a spontaneous observer of nature.

– Maria Montessori
Today I will leave you with this little piece written by Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D. from “The Moment of Youth”
Storytelling Is a Conduit for Intergenerational Learning
Why stories are critical to brain development.

Have you shared a well-told story with a teen or grandchild lately? The result could be transformative for both of you!Stories help us see the world in new and different ways, and move us toward action. At their most basic level, stories connect people’s brains in ways that help them co-create new stories— stories that transform individuals and society over time. Stories touch us because they allow us to connect to other people’s joy, pain, and varied life experiences.You can read the full article here:

TELL ME and I forget. TEACH ME and I remember. INVOLVE ME and I learn.

– Ben Franklin