As a learning community for older adults, our commitment to innovation and excellence in Senior Planet program design informs our mission to change the way we age by helping older adults come together and find ways to learn, work, create, and thrive. In this unwavering spirit of innovation, OATS is proud to work with an organization called Generations Over Dinner to bring multiple generations together at the dinner table for meaningful conversations.
Generations over Dinner aims to enhance cross-generational understanding, through the unique lens of each generation, and create an experience that connects and values all perspectives across the age continuum. The Senior Planet center in New York City hosted the inaugural Generations Over Dinner event on November 16th. The event gave participants from four generations an opportunity to transcend generational divides and upend misconceptions by sharing stories in the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the Senior Planet center.
“We are thrilled that the Generations Over Dinner event was a success,” said Colette Buscemi, Director of Innovation and Program Design at Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP. “OATS is committed to creating experiences that foster sharing ideas and building relationships. Now more than ever, there’s a tremendous need to try to understand one another and find common ground. We’re eager to continue to offer this program and others like it in 2023!”
After making introductions, meeting new and old friends, and enjoying dinner, participants broke out into three groups to consider the following conversational prompts:
- What person who is no longer alive had a powerful impact on your life?
- What is the greatest misconception about your generation?
- What is the most important technological innovation in your lifetime?
- What is the greatest challenge we face as humans?
These questions kicked off a memorable evening of conversation, connection, laughter, and even a few tears. People shared moving and heartfelt stories about those who inspire them– parents, grandparents, famous musicians, great authors, and others. Prompted to discuss important technical innovations, participants talked about how computers and smartphones have changed their lives and the transformational potential of emerging health technologies and futuristic inventions, like smart pills with chips. A question about social innovation and cultural awareness led to lively discussions about generational approaches to parenting, and differences in how generations perceive their roles and responsibilities in society. When asked to consider the greatest problems we face as humans, people voiced frustration with rising crime, environmental degradation, and incivility in public discourse, and shared the ways they deal with the stresses and challenges of modern life.
Generations Over Dinner, funded by the Association for Growth and Education (AGE) and in partnership with the Modern Elder Academy, provides a roadmap for ending intergenerational misconceptions. “The power of cross-generational connection and collaboration could genuinely improve the world, and we’re thrilled to help create a platform that encourages shared wisdom,” says Chip Conley, Co-Founder, and CEO of Modern Elder Academy (MEA). “Cultural tropes about aging have created acute age segregation.”
Evidence is emerging that intergenerational dialogue could enhance the quality of life for participants. Dr. Thomas Socha, University Professor at Old Dominion University and founder and former director of ODU’s Graduate Program in Lifespan and Digital Communication, who is administering a longitudinal study focused on the impact of these dinners said, “The preliminary data collected about Generations Over Dinner suggests that these conversations are not only fun, but they may also be good for us. Participating in these conversations may help us improve the quality and effectiveness of our nation’s intergenerational communication and better understand the many meanings and purposes of our generational lives.”
Senior Planet’s event revealed common threads shared across the age continuum. Participants agreed that we all want to be heard, that conversation is the key to cross-generation understanding, and that deep wisdom comes from learning from all generations.