Saturday, May 28, 2011


Source: Straits Times 28 May 2011
In the picture above, students learn to bond with the elderly in Project Heartstrings, a 2-day event organized by Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and the People's Association Youth Movement.  The event brought together 100 students and 100 senior citizens from Lions Befrienders, Singapore. The aim was to raise awareness of social isolation among the elderly.

We often think of the generation gap as one between parents and their teenage children. What is often overlooked is the more serious and wider gap between adult children of the baby boomer generation and their elderly parents.

Baby boomers represent the post-war generation. They were brought up in an era of plenty, when education was a right. Their parents, on the other hand, lived through the war years of scarcity, when education was a privilege. Hence, the huge difference in mindset and lifestyle. The result - constant friction and bickering over trivial matters, with both sides experiencing unnecessary emotional pain and remorse.

Most intergenerational bonding projects are targeted at bringing together the elderly and the young. The omission of the sandwich generation speaks volumes about the need to foster better understanding between the elderly and their adult children.

Attempts to organize events to encourage bonding between the older generations have not been very successful. They fail to draw participation from adult children. There are also no counselling services to help adult children cope with their filial responsibilities. Not surprising that Singapore, for example, has to resort to passing a law that makes it mandatory for adult children to support their aged parents.

We need to constantly remind ourselves that our parents took care of us when we were children, and now it's our turn to care for them in their old age. And as the years pass, it will be our children who will take over the role of caregiver. How we treat our aged parents now will determine how our adult children will treat us when we are no longer able to care for ourselves. What kind of role model are we giving them?

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