The Power of Reuniting Generations by Derenda Schubert
— TEDxMtHood is honored to introduce Derenda Schubert as one of our 2016 speakers. —
For many years, my family had a small tapestry hanging in the kitchen that read, “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots and the other wings.” Roots to ground ourselves to know where we belong and our place in the world – to have a sense of permanence. Wings to explore the world, to grow our gifts and live to our purpose.
Imagine a community where all generations know they belong to something bigger than themselves. Each day, I am amazed at the power of individuals to come together for a purpose. In the intentional, intergenerational community of Bridge Meadows, members come together for a specific purpose – helping children become adopted from the foster care system. Parents in the community become the forever family for the children, and elders become tutors, mentors and surrogate grandparents. There is reciprocity among the generations – with all this helping – creating a strong community fabric to provide all generations with a sturdy foundation to weather life’s trials and tribulations and celebrate life.
Children gain from the love and wisdom of the elders, and elders live with meaning and purpose. The Stanford University Center for Longevity reports that there are three key areas associated with long life: financial security, health, and social connections. Many cultures around the world have this figured out and live naturally in a three-generation setting – establishing the cultural norms, sharing traditions, providing learning from life experiences and safety to the community. Living in age silos creates a loss of important cultural information being transferred across the generational lines, disconnects the community, and risks social isolation for children, parents and elders. Social isolation is like carbon monoxide, poisonous to health, well-being and connection.
In an intentional, intergenerational community, like the one at Bridge Meadows, roots sprout from the connections made among the children, parents and elders. Children are flourishing in school and their past issues subside, allowing them to live happy lives. Parents report feeling more effective in their parenting skills and supported in the “village.” Elders are living healthy lives (i.e., decreased blood pressure, diabetes better managed), and some with cancer are even living longer than their peers. Each generation flourishes with stable housing, social support from one another and living with meaning and purpose.
My favorite time of the week is “Happiness Hour.” Each week the community comes together for a meal and time together. Miss Rayna always serves a great meal, complete with dessert. Today homemade pizza, salad and red velvet birthday cake were served for the monthly birthday celebration. At the request of Terri, a young girl who is in a wheelchair and is re-learning how to stand and walk, suggested we have a dance party! Tunes rocked from the stereo and little ones and big ones danced to Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song.” A perfect afternoon!
These simple moments don’t seem that extraordinary on the surface, but when your life has been fraught with instability, these moments are huge in creating a foundation for blossoming and sharing one’s gifts with the world. As one of the elders says, they are “helping to heal a small tear in the social fabric.”
According to AARP, 10,000 people are turning 65 years old each day. This is an incredible amount of human capital just waiting to contribute to society, an army of capable people who have so much to share with the world. Imagine if all children had the caring hands of elders in their lives. I am happy to say that Bridge Meadows provides a special place to live and grow like this, every day. When was the last time you took a moment to listen, speak or engage with a person from another generation?
I am excited to share more of the wisdom and stories gained from living intentionally in an intergenerational community with purpose at TEDxMtHood on June 18, 2016, and how you can be a part of building bridges across the generations for stronger connections in our years to come – looking forward to seeing you there!
Image usage granted by Bridge Meadows and Derenda Schubert.
A licensed psychologist with extensive professional experience in counseling children and families, Dr. Derenda Schubert has found herself creating, managing, and evaluating foster care and mental health programs in Chicago and Portland. Her passion is discovering intergenerational solutions to complex social challenges. To that end, Derenda now serves as Executive Director of Bridge Meadows, a unique, multi-generational community in Portland where adoptive parents, foster children, and seniors share a home built with love and in a vision of a better tomorrow. Under her leadership, Bridge Meadows has received national recognition by the National Home Builders Association, the 2014 award for Intergenerational Excellence by the Eisner Foundation, and was named “An Angel in Adoption” by Senator Wyden.
Derenda’s passion for making the world a better place for children, families, and elders is inspired by her own children and the love of her grandmothers. Bridge Meadows shows how advancing the power of community can work.