Any time certain holidays come around we sometimes wonder if this is just another marketing plan by Hallmark. Because there are so many more holidays than there used to be, we sometimes simply forget what's so special about the day. There is a special day, however, on Sunday September 9 that we should not forget: Grandparents Day.
There are many reasons why this should be recognized as one of the most important holidays of the year, and it's not just because you may have grandparents in your family that buy you great gifts or buy you dinner. This day is equivalent to Mothers Day and Fathers Day.
By the year 2030, one in every five Americans will be over 65. According to the latest census in Tulsa, there are over 50,000 citizens over 65, and many of them are grandparents. We are living longer lives than ever before. At its most fundamental level, this human longevity creates the possibility for multigenerational families and communities.
Aging is really something we do from the moment we are born. If we thought more about the whole of our lives rather than fearing and denying getting old, individuals and communities would make different choices.
Too often the needs of older adults are seen as a drain on a community. But older adults have tremendous potential as resources in a community, as do young people. Unfortunately most communities operate under an age segregated framework. We put the young people in one type of place or facility and we put older adults in another type of place or facility. We intentionally design a community to keep them apart.
What's really needed now, and the critical role our grandparents play, is the intergenerational transmission of culture, value and wisdom -- the legacies between generations. Perhaps the only good thing about our bad economy and its effects on families is the number of multi generations of one family living under one roof out of necessity.
What we learn, what we teach, and what we pass from one generation to another is truly what keeps our memories, hopes, and dreams alive. How we do this can be taught and can be learned.
Some cities are known as good places to raise a family while others are recognized as nice places to retire. Tulsa can be that place where you are born, grow up, have a career and raise a family, and then retire and stay connected to family and community. In other words, a city that responds to generational needs across a lifetime and brings together all ages for mutual benefit.
Fewer than half of America's cities have even begun to address the changing generational landscape. Of those that have, most have taken a rather narrow perspective. Further, this whole area is still very much in its infancy; the fact that we're living so long is still relatively new.
Late in 2011, Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the Legacy Project partnered to take a ground breaking, bigger picture approach -- a Legacy community building approach founded on community-wide life course, the intergenerational practices. The ultimate goal of the Tulsa Across the Generations Initiative is a thriving, vibrant city that recognizes, respects, and meets the needs -- physical, emotional and social -- of all ages and brings generations together in support of each other.
As a community we have to face the challenges which an aging population presents in areas of housing, transportation, health, education, civic engagement, and safety.
As we approach Grandparents Day, if you have a grandparent, or your children do, consider doing these things:
First, there is a great exhibit at the Tulsa Historical Society called the Dream Exhibit. This exhibit, brought to Tulsa as the first city in America to receive the exhibit by the Legacy Project and sponsored by the Williams Foundation, is a great way for grandparents to help their grandchildren learn the value and importance of dreaming for a better day and a future life.
Second, spend time talking and recording your family's history from your grandparents' perspective. Before you know it, you could lose this opportunity. Sit quietly with them and let them tell their story. It will be a fascinating time together.
Third, remember that most grandparents don't need any more gifts or things. But spending time with you or their grandchildren is something they will think about and talk about for days. Be sure to keep giving them pictures as their grandchildren age.
There is a reason we call them "grand" parents instead of "old" parents. They are grand because they are wise. They have walked life's path ahead of us. They have so much more to teach us about life than any class you or your children will ever take in school. Perhaps that should be a required class in schools -- Intergenerational Partnering.
Don't forget that next Sunday isn't just another Sunday. It's Grandparents Day. It's their day. And the best way you can truly make their day is to be with them and ask them to talk about the dreams they had, the life they lived, their happiest moments, and their advice for your life.
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