I’m always a bit confused by generation names. For example, I couldn’t tell you to which generation I belong—Generation X, Y, are we onto Z yet? (I’m in my 30s, if that helps.) There’s one name for a certain generation that does resonate with me, though: the Give Back Generation.
Do you know who this refers to? Think about one generation in your life that offers childcare, volunteers regularly, and barely gets recognition for any of that. If you guessed grandparents—seniors—you’d be right.
My Grandparents’ Example of Giving Back
While my grandparents lived three hours away from me during my childhood, they were still very involved in my life. My grandma corresponded with me via Canada Post on a regular basis. Christmas was always at Grandma’s house, and frequently Easter and Thanksgiving were there too. One year, my brothers and I stayed at Grandma’s for a week and attended the VBS at her church. Another time, my grandparents took my twin and I on an RV trip to the Rockies.
When my grandparents weren’t busy with their grandkids, they were giving back in other ways in their community. Grandma volunteered at her local food bank once a week. She dropped by the hospital weekly to visit shut-ins and help them get to an in-hospital church service. She and my grandpa were active in their church, helping out with the seniors’ group and folding bulletins every week.
Grandpa helped my uncle with the farm work every spring and fall, and Grandma brought meals and snacks for the hungry harvesters. When my grandma developed dementia, he became her primary care provider. Even after she moved into a care home, he continued to visit her daily and take care of her laundry and other needs.
The Grandmas at Church
When we lived in Victoria, I was involved with a weekly Mom’s Group at our church. While us moms gathered in the church library for coffee, goodies, and spiritual formation or a parenting discussion topic, a group of grandmas ran a mini preschool for our children. They did puzzles, served snacks, read stories, played dress-up and play-dough and cars and dolls and more, with a busy bunch of kids from babies to Kindergarteners.
Mom’s Group was a highlight of the week not only for me, but also for my daughters. They saw their friends there, but they also developed relationships with the grandmas. At church on Sunday, they were always excited to see Grandma P or Grandma M, and ran up to her with hugs. These amazing women showed up week after week to invest in our children and give us moms a break, and it meant a lot to us.
Outside Mom’s Group, many of these grandmas were involved in other ways in their community. They knit blankets, sweaters and dolls to donate to an annual fundraising fair at the church. They helped out with the Catholic Women’s League. They babysat their own children.
Jade’s Adopted Grandpa
In Victoria, we always stayed after Mass for coffee time, visiting with other parishioners. One of these was Peter, a barber in his 90s. He still worked part-time as a barber and my husband often went to him for hair cuts. Jade, who was baptized at that church, adopted him as her grandpa.
One Sunday when she was about 6 or 7 months old (big enough to sit up and express what she wanted!), Peter was holding her when we needed to go. I tried to take her from him, and she gave vocal protest. I gave her back for a few minutes, but I could tell that Peter, standing with her, was growing tired. Again, I tried to take Jade, and again she wailed her disagreement with that. I gave her back again, laughing at her love for this gentleman. Finally, we really had to go, and I carried Jade out, despite her continued protestations leaving Peter.
When Peter passed away from lung cancer, we took the girls to his funeral. The church was filled not only with his family, but with many others whose lives he’d touched. Like so many seniors, Peter gave back in numerous ways. We only knew him for a few years, yet I still fondly remember coffee times with him and Jade’s deep attachment to him.
Why Don’t We Appreciate the Give Back Generation?
As I thought about the seniors in my life, from my own grandparents to others we’ve known, it’s easy for me to see why they are called the Give Back Generation. I could share many other stories of this generation helping our family.
However, many seniors are being overlooked and undervalued in Canada today. One in seven Canadians believe that people over age 65 contribute less than younger generations and are a burden to society. What?!?
The truth is that, like the stories I’ve shared, the Give Back Generation is contributing to our society in numerous ways. Over a quarter of Canadian seniors reported helping a younger friend or family member with household chores and childcare within the last week. Others have helped family members out financially. Many seniors are still working, either part-time or full-time. Just under a quarter of Canadian seniors spend more than 5 hours a week volunteering (that’s way more than I’ve ever done!).
Often, we take the seniors in our lives for granted. Maybe we only see them once a week (like Peter and the grandmas at church) or a few times a year (like my grandparents). It might take the eulogy at their funeral for us to realize how much they gave back to their communities. For me, sitting at my grandpa’s funeral hearing how well his pastor knew him brought tears to my eyes. That pastor probably saw my grandpa more than I did.
A recent survey found that even though seniors give back to their community and families in many ways, their help is often overlook. While Canadian seniors talk about ways they help out younger generations, less than half of those who received the help acknowledged it. That’s a sad statistic.
June is Seniors’ Month, so I’d like you to reflect on those in the Give Back Generation who’ve impacted your life (or your child’s). Call them today and say thanks, or send a card or letter, or invite them over for tea or coffee just because. Show them your appreciation for what they’ve done in your life.
Plus, in honour of Seniors’ Month, Zoomer Magazine is hosting a Love Every Age contest. They’ve narrowed down many inspiring stories of older Canadians down to four finalists. Help narrow down the four finalists to two lucky winners here!
How has the Give Back Generation impacted your life?
This article has been sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur, but the opinions shared are my own.