Original article by Don Rosenbaum for the Montreal Gazette. This article is available in English only.
This summer’s multiple deaths in Quebec from the heat wave illustrate the terrible price of social isolation. Most of the victims were elderly, alone and largely without support.
Yet there is a remedy, a strategy that could make a world of difference. Making intergenerational connections — linking elders and young people in a variety of ways — reduces isolation, and enhances a sense of belonging, of community and civic responsibility for both groups.
We see evidence of this in the anglophone sector with Quebec’s network of Community Learning Centres. Financed by minority-language funding from the federal government, these CLCs offer learning and leisure activities to a multigenerational clientele, but only occasionally do the age groups mix.
The real benefit is when the generations connect, learn from one another and support one another. There are many wonderful examples at present, including seniors volunteering at a daycare centre, schoolchildren visiting nursing homes, teens teaching grandparents to navigate the internet and intergenerational cafés bringing elders and high school students together for conversation. In several schools, elders run the breakfast club, help with reading circles and extra-curricular activities such as the knitting and chess clubs.
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