Nourishing intergenerational connection

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Young Black man speaking with an older Black man outdoors

Out Health

I am a 60 year old gay man. I have no children. I have one sister, who has no children. My husband has no children and no siblings. I worry that my husband and I won’t be able to take care of each other as we age. Who will make decisions about our health? Who will take us to medical appointments and obtain medication? Who will check in on us? I imagine there are many others with these same questions, especially in the LGBTQ community.

It’s important to me to maintain a connection to people in younger generations, not only because I like it, it’s good for society, and it’s a mutually beneficial relationship in many ways, but also because these relationships with friends, colleagues, and more distant relatives can take on some of the roles that children often do.

Maintaining a connection to people outside one’s age group is good for mental health. Getting to know and understand people outside one’s age group who are not relatives is invaluable in navigating through social order. The insight gained from getting to know non-relatives can strengthen the bonds with one’s grandparents, parents, and children.

Establishing and maintaining such connections is important as we age, but there are also ways to initiate them even after the need arises as we become more confined. As a society and as a community, we need to provide such opportunities for connection and need to provide education on the value of them as well as the means to establish and nourish them. Two obvious places to turn to are organizations and activities.

I spoke with Rick Kavin, President of The Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park. Joining such an organization can provide an immediate connection to a diverse community as well as opportunities for many activities with people of all ages. Some of the groups that meet at the Pride Center tend to be age-specific, but the Center also hosts such things as movie nights, karaoke, and an annual picnic, that draw intergenerational crowds. They have presented in the past, and plan to again, an event called “Community Connection,” for just the purpose of bringing people of different generations together for education and networking.

I also spoke with David Rogoff, former President of the Pride Center of New Jersey. He suggested becoming involved in classical music organizations, social justice organizations, religious organizations, museums, and the Scouts.

Becoming involved in political organizations can be advantageous. I have attended meetings of Elders for Equality of Garden State Equality. Executive Director Christian Fuscarino assured me that GSE will continue to offer such opportunities, and will again work with SAGE, a nationwide organization that provides advocacy and services for LGBTQ elders (originally known as Seniors Active in a Gay Environment), to make aging better for the LGBTQ people of New Jersey.

Meetup.com lists many groups and activities where you can search by location and type. Many sports groups tend to be age and ability specific. I spoke with Jeff Kagan, founder of Out of Bounds NYC, an LGBTQ sports club, and The Pride Center of New Jersey Out Bowling league.

Bowling is an activity that can be done by people of a wide variety of ages and abilities. Jeff said that once the group got started, people of all ages joined and told their friends. The group was established as more of a social activity and not at all competitive. My husband and I bowled with them for a while. The camaraderie was great. And occasionally, I even bowled well.

I had a wonderful conversation with Laura Migliore, Programming Coordinator at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters in Manalapan. They present concerts about once a month with music that appeals to a wide variety of ages. They also present regular yoga classes open to all ages, a WISE Series for Seniors where one of the upcoming programs is “Valuing Cultural and Generational Diversity,” and special events, like “What’s it Worth” with an appraiser and participants of all ages.

There are volunteer and professional services that can provide all kinds of assistance for the aging. Some community centers operate a buddy program, linking younger people to those in need of transportation, medication, shopping, or even just conversation.

I spoke with Annette Murphy, Director of Home Care and Care Management for Springpoint at Home in Monroe. Although not often covered by insurance, one can hire an Ageing Life Care Professional or Senior Care Manager to “Arrange and coordinate services,” she said. They will assist with government programs when necessary, accompany clients to doctors’ appointments, facilitate hospitalizations, provide medical referrals to specialists in geriatric care, provide legal referrals to professionals in estate planning, advance directives, and powers of attorney, help with decisions related to where to live, optimizing social benefits, safety and security, and planning for level of care changes, or arrange day programs and respite care to support the primary care giver’s need to attend to his or her own health, career, or personal concerns.”

It’s important to establish connections with people outside one’s age group. It’s beneficial to nourish and enjoy these connections as we age. People of all ages will learn, understand, and grow with these connections. And when needs arise, we can help each other.

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