The Power of Youth

by Robin Bush

ISR Communications

In a book titled, “The Swedish Art of Aging Exuberantly:  Life Wisdom from Someone Who Will (Probably) Die Before You,” Margareta Magnusson (age 86) says, “There seems to be no other choice than to see every nuisance as something that I must find a way to cherish.”  Magnussen’s definition of happiness is being around young people.

Vonetta Dotson, a professor of psychology and gerontology at Georgia State University and author of “Keep Your Wits About You: The Science of Brain Maintenance as You Age,” says being around younger people benefits your brain. She reports that research is finding that as some cognitive decline begins, socializing with younger people who are mentally sharp stimulates cognitive function.

How do you go about building relationships with younger people? As you engage with them, allow them to talk and listen to their point of view. Don’t tell them what you would do in their situation unless they ask. Offer understanding. Let them know they have been heard (even if you disagree). How can you get started? Keep your door open to grandchildren (yours or a friend’s), call younger relatives regularly, volunteer at the local schools or Big Brothers Big Sisters, or read to children at the library. Just a few hours a week can make a difference in your level of happiness and your cognitive function.

Be open to the idea. Change your approach from “No, I can’t” to “Yes, I can.” Before saying no to an opportunity for intergenerational experience, ask yourself, “Why do I feel I should say no? Is it that I can’t do it or that I won’t do it.”  It’s good to s-t-r-e-t-c-h yourself. Try bringing more young people into your life and experience the transformation in thoughts and feelings — for you and them.