Changing Traditions As We Age

The holidays, I suppose, is the perfect time to address this subject on graciousness.  While various families and acquaintances have a myriad of traditions around holidays, it is common for many families to adhere to those traditions every year throughout their lifetimes without much change.  As we age, however, that can sometimes begin to change.  Once our own children begin having their children, but especially when grandchildren have children, the long standing holiday traditions that we've built up begin to crumble apart & leave us feeling at a loss as to what to do with ourselves.

First, it's important to note that this is a very real & very normal part of the aging process.  There is no need to see it as an affront to us personally, this “changing of the guard”.  There reaches a point when we can no longer do the things that we used to be able to do.  This could include trekking through the snow & ice in sub-zero temperatures to get a Christmas tree to trim, or making a meal fit for a king that will serve at least 50, and insisting on using all the finest china that needs to be hand-washed afterward. There is a point in life when our physical bodies are not up for the monumental tasks of some of the traditions we've set up.

Second, it's okay to be a bit nostalgic about it.  These traditions do not encompass what the entire holiday is about, but they are certainly things that we've looked forward to and done for many years.  In some cases, the traditions have helped glue our families together when the circumstances of life are trying to tear us apart.  Nostalgia is good.  It helps soften the edges of the harsh world we live in & give us hope for a brighter future.

Third, it's also okay to admit that while we have these feelings of nostalgia, we're physically and/or mentally unable to continue to carry on the traditions as we've known them in the past.  This is admitting to changes that have occurred in us, not necessarily to weakness, but to changes that naturally occur with the passage of time.

All of these changes can be difficult to process, and some of the changes may come before we are expecting them.  Our children may go away to spend time with their grandchildren instead coming to visit us.  With the arrival of spouses & children, other aspects of our tradition may need to be graciously set aside or arranged differently in order to incorporate traditions that are important to those loved ones who are new to the family.

If all of this talk of changing traditions has made you sad & long for days of old, take this time to contemplate what NEW opportunities this may afford you.  Could you make new traditions of your own?  Could you go and help those in need in a way that you've never had time to do before?  Could you arrange a food drive for a food shelf?  Could you serve in a soup kitchen?  Could you help crochet, quilt or sew things that would help those less fortunate?  Could you give the gift of time and read to someone who can no longer see well enough to read?  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.  So this year, welcome the changes with gratitude & graciousness and continue to make the world a better place!



Intentional Inter-generational Gatherings


  Recently I saw a small town newspaper that was advertising an “inter-generational gathering” and they were hoping to have several generations represented to encourage conversation, a sense of belonging & health in all of the groups that attended.  It struck me as a bit odd that our culture has changed so much over the years that what was once a normal part of life now has to be intentionally arranged because it is so rare.  It also caused me to start thinking of ideas that anyone could implement in their own communities to encourage the benefits that were once natural.  Of course, integrating life with several different generations daily would be optimal, but if it is not possible, I'll list some ideas below that might help anyone interested in enriching their lives through these types of gatherings.

Teach yourself to paint!  There are several of these types of studios opening all across the country, where friends can reserve a time slot to get together and learn a new technique.  Reserve an evening & advertise it specifically as inter-generational.  When people arrive, try your best to seat them next to people of a very different generation.  You may need to do a couple of ice-breakers to begin since some people have a very difficult time beginning conversations with others, especially if they don't think they'll have anything in common.

Consider your library as a meeting place.  Many libraries have community rooms that can be reserved free of charge for gatherings of this kind.  You could host an author to speak, an inter-generational writing course, or even something completely unrelated to the library that will be of interest to everyone involved.

Plan an inter-generational community gardening day.  If your community is forward-thinking enough to have a community garden, consider hosting a day that is for all generations.  Set up extra benches or chairs with umbrellas to keep the sun off older participants & have people that are specifically enlisted to go around asking about people's best tips & tricks for successful growing.  Do the best you can to make it during a harvesting part of the season so that you can send some of the elderly home with fresh produce that they may not get as often as they would like!

Set up interviews.  If you're unable to set up an entire gathering with many people involved, consider a smaller scale & more adaptable approach.  Set up interviews between the elderly & younger people for them to share their stories.  Try your best to record them or have a written record so that in the future, should you find a way to make a large gathering happen, you'll have some amazing material to work with to show the benefit of the gatherings to others.

The benefits are astounding, but some people may be shy or may need to be convinced that it is necessary.  Once people begin interacting, however, they will see how important the interactions are to all parties involved.  Our culture is, at times, so separate that it become nearly impossible to occur naturally.  Help to make them happen & just see how much life they bring!