A critical 21st Century issue and challenge is to prevent
Volunteering provides many opportunities for the expansion of one’s horizons. Often, this is
accomplished through meeting people who have had different life experiences. Interaction between
people of varied ages often produces newfound knowledge and respect as valuable by-products.
At a time when families are more spread apart, there is often limited opportunity for people
of different generations to have much contact with one another. As Canadian society becomes more
mobile and urbanized, different generations living in close proximity to each other becomes
progressively rare. Grandparents and grandchildren might see each other only infrequently,
or children might live with the absence of one or both parents.
Volunteering is one valuable means by which people of different ages can meet, share and
learn from one another. People who have yet to enter the workforce and those who may have
already retired or semi-retired from it often find volunteering a rewarding means of
participating in their communities. So, too, do people of working age find that volunteerism
helps them maintain connections with those older and younger than themselves.
Examples of intergenerational volunteers abound, proving that one’s age does not affect
one’s ability to make a contribution. Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations match adult
volunteers with children in order to enrich lives. Seniors often volunteer time to work within
schools, thereby helping both students and teachers. In Margaret Barry’s article "Creating a
Sharing Partnership between Generations," (link below) she examines the Friends of Seniors
project, in which students visit a seniors’ lodge on a voluntary basis.
As we can see, there are no age requirements for voluntary service, only the desire to help
others and make a difference. Intergenerational volunteers remind us that all people, regardless
of age, have something to share. In this way, they set an example of a commitment to voluntary
service that can last a lifetime.
Creating a sharing partnership between generations (PDF) by
While volunteering is an act of giving, it also offers benefits to the volunteer, by teaching new
skills, developing new interests and forging new relationships. In the article "Creating a Sharing
Partnership between Generations," Margaret Barry profiles just such a case. The Friends of Seniors
project at Clover Bar Lodge in Sherwood Park showcases the potential for volunteerism to enrich
lives. The relationship that develops between the young volunteers and the seniors they visit is
shown to be mutually beneficial as it bridges the gap between generations. The article is a reminder
that volunteering is often its own reward.