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A-Ha Moments

Connecting Across Generations

Written by: Bill Sherman on Wednesday, 17 September 2008, 2:19 PM

A friend of mine, Dan Hawthorne, tells the following story of his grandmother.

She’d lived a long life, giving generously to those in her family and to her community. She was well loved. When she became ill with cancer, she was surrounded by those same friends and family. She’d deeply invested in relationships with many people who were substantially younger than herself.

Dan was impressed by the outpouring and affection and care shown to his grandmother. People who had received care from her years ago returned to support her at the close of her life.

Often we associate with our age-peers. They’re the people who resemble us most in our daily lives. They face similar challenges and often similar interests. Yet, when we explore the concept of social capital, there’s a definite value to heterogeneity within your network.

Robert Putnam, principal investigator of Harvard’s Saguaro Seminar and author of Bowling Alone explores the breakdown of community-based social capital. A life spent in tight isolation of “bowling alone” can lead to a situation many of us fear–dying alone.

Strong social networks can even help us live longer. Spend time learning from those people who are older than you, and take time to connect with people who are younger than you. It’s not only a way to get exposed to different ideas, it’s a way to stretch your mind.

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