Haims: Senior mentoring helps our youth fill the gaps in their social education (column) | VailDaily.com

Haims: Senior mentoring helps our youth fill the gaps in their social education (column)

Judson Haims
Special to the Daily

Here is some food for thought: Our community's seniors may very well be able to aid our community's youth more than the youth have the ability of aiding the old.

Eagle County has a tremendous amount of elders who have the opportunity to give purpose, meaning, hope and inspiration to our youth. Our community's elders are a valuable resource that can educate our youth, teach social issues and etiquettes and help troubled teens put their lives in order.

Research and a number of community-based organizations across the country have shown great successes when older adults offer their time to mentor and tutor young students. Organizations such as Generation Xchange, One Generation, Johns Hopkins Older Adult Independence Center's, Temple University's Family Friends, Partners for New Generations in Northern California and Intergenerational Bridges in Maryland are trailblazing in bridging intergenerational gaps.

According to One Generation, "When older adults tutor young people, they bring critical one-on-one attention to the youths' skill building, while the young people make seniors more comfortable with new technologies. This reciprocity builds mutual respect and a sense of community, providing children and adults with diverse role models."

Further, PBS and a number of other organizations have conducted studies that have shown that children whose grandparents talk, read and sing to them show better vocabulary and emotional development and are better able to manage stress.

Elders who have already experienced the trials and tribulations of business and life could provide real insight to our youth. For many young people, listening to elders who have already "walked the walk" and who can share their stories of success and failures can help young people discover what they are learning in the classroom is relevant to the real world.

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I am not a sociologist; however, I can say that much of the decline of values and respect for others, and ourselves, may be attributed to the diminishing availability of time many of today's families have to spend teaching personal values, societal values and etiquettes. In past generations, Emily Post and Amy Vanderbuilt teachings were well known. Currently, these etiquettes are rarely discussed at home. Perhaps if our youth had greater opportunities to interact with our elder population, then the decorum and social decencies from previous generations could be shared and taught.

The key to teaching our youth to behave with manners and respect for others and to conduct themselves as young ladies and gentlemen is through modeling and instruction.

Children today are under incredible pressure to behave maturely and to grow up before they have had the chance to develop emotionally. Additionally, there is more stress around them with sports and academic achievement than in the past. Perhaps this is where our community's elders could make a profound difference.

Often, the elderly have a unique ability to provide a sense of calm and tranquility to our youth. They can also provide unconditional love without being judgmental. Because many of us do not have our extended families nearby, our community's elders have an opportunity to help fill this role.

Transferring generational knowledge and experiences is imperative to building healthy communities. Such communication builds confidence and helps our youth understand their current and future position in our society.

Are you a senior who may be willing to teach our youth to cook a meal and dine formally? Are you a senior who has a professional experience and/or education you can share with our youth? Do you have a life experience that you are willing to share?

If you would like give your time and of yourself, then contact our office, Eagle Valley Senior Life, 970-977-0188; Castle Peak Senior Life, 970-989-2500; or Eagle County Healthy Aging, 970-328-8896.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. Contact him at 970-328-5526 or visit http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns.