The Older and the Younger, Co-creating Futures

This blog was originally posted to My children and I are reading through a book my father wrote about his experiences in several Central American countries. The sense of mission, values and adventure that drove him shines through, stirring our anxieties and longings. I am convinced we will be thinking and acting differently in the days and years to come as a result.

This is a story about one generation’s story shaping the next.

In my role with Axiom News, I and a few like-minded folks, including Rituu B. Nanda from India and Kristin Bodiford from Chicago, have had several conversations since last fall on a mix of related themes — the power of narrative, the power of youth as change agents and the power of connecting such change agents from around the world using tools like journalism, summits and guided conversations shaped by approaches such as Appreciative Inquiry and Community Life Competence.

  Kristin Bodiford

While one of our first ideas was to create a news platform by and about youth as change agents, we’ve since evolved the notion into telling the stories of different generations co-constructing their future together.

Kristin, an organizational and community consultant with deep experience working with both youth and older adults to co-construct the future for their communities, has proposed we seek stories about intergenerational action — youth-led action, older adult-led action, youth action for older adults and older adults for youth and young children.

To kick off this still loosely defined news platform, we’re considering a four-day online conference, spread over a month, with Appreciative Inquiry principles providing the framework for conversation and presentations each day on the general theme of intergenerational change agency.

Organizations and communities with aligning perspectives and missions include World Café, the Appreciative Inquiry community, Taos Institute, Generations United and Communities for All Ages at Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning and Constellation. Representatives from several of these have expressed support.

Rituu, who works with communities in India and a host of other countries using a strengths-based community development approach, says she sees a real need for this work.

“I am passionate about this because I believe that everyone has strengths irrespective of age. I think it’s the need in today's society when the gap between the generations is growing. The world is youth-centric and hence, we can lose out on experience and wisdom of older people,” she says.

  Rituu B. Nanda

I, myself, see tremendous possibilities in adding the tools of journalism and guided conversation to the wisdom, creativity and energy of diverse generations already coming together to make a difference in their communities. Yes, there’s telling stories from one generation to the next, that is crucial to building strength for perseverance and discovering “new” paths forward. But add co-creating a new story together, and the possibilities explode.

As the Temple University Center states on the importance of its work, “In these tough economic times, we need new strategies for meeting the challenges facing individuals of all ages and the communities in which they live.  Now more than ever we need to strengthen the interdependence across generations.”

While there is much to be done to hone the vision before we even consider turning it into action, we’re keen to hear how others respond.

— What are your thoughts?
— What could a new forum for news and conversation about intergenerational change agency contribute to our global well-being?
— What’s already in place that might be similar? How could this new forum be different? How would it align with these other efforts?
— What would be needed to make it happen?
— What would your commitment be to this?

You can comment below, or e-mail michelle(at)

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Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on March 22, 2013 at 10:29pm

Responses from AI practitioners


  •  Joan Hoxsey Rituuu - I hope you will include some good information about passing on the elders wisdom.  Sometimes we look so old that younger colleagues think we have little to offer.  It is very difficult to move from an active life to a more limited physical life.
  • John Lodder What a great idea and initiative Rituu! maybe the 'positive aging' newsletter of Mary and Ken Gergen could be of inspiration? Wish you all lots of inspiration ;-)
Comment by Michelle Strutzenberger on March 22, 2013 at 9:52pm

These insights from youth are so rich. There are some really important values underlying these suggestions. Now what can we do with all this? What can I do? I have much to think on.

Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on March 2, 2013 at 12:12pm

Here is a response from India civil society Facebook group. Thanks Bazo! Bazo works with communities in Northeast India.

Bazo Kire when we are talking about "older generation' we need to have an age bracket ...i don't know the general cutoff age but anyone above 90 yrs of age might not recall much so they might mix up all their memories but this age group teaches us a lot about being human. They become sweet, innocent, irritable and dependent.

the younger older people can contribute a lot to the youths. for that matter, anyone who is 30 years and above can share to today's teenagers how life was without telephone, televisions, how they pass messages, etc. The food they ate, the daily wages they earn, the games they play. what they do to socialise between genders, etc.

they can teach the younger ones to knit, stitch, weave or any handicraft. Most parents today don't have time to teach their children this crafts and so the need for specialisation!!

Along the way, the younger generation can teach them how to use IT

(wonder if i'm saying what you mean...)
Comment by NAMARA ARTHUR ARAALI on February 27, 2013 at 10:47pm

That is exactly what attracted our attention one time during our SALT visit to an older persons home, as we were discussing we observed two young boys were attentively listening to our conversation but with out participating in the talking. One of us decided to engage them in a conversation but mainly about what they were doing. When we went back to the office on reflection we realized that we are living out important link on issues of older persons - those young people.

So we decided to get their views through essay competitions. We asked them to write about their role in regard to older persons within their communities. They generated very good ideas some of which we shall soon post on our website.

One was reading as follows;

An example an essay written by a Senior two student of Entebbe SSS – Namirembe Shabilah :

"The youths act as a source of labour to the elderly. They help in building for them good homes. The role of youths to older persons is to help the elderly in house hold chores like cooking, washing, fetching water, farming and going to shops. The youths are supposed to provide security to the elderly by protecting them from bad people who can abuse them like thieves, rapists, and drug and alcohol addicts among others. The youths are suppose to work hand in hand with the elderly to instill good morals and discipline among the young ones by being morally upright hence exemplary so as punishing the young ones who deviate from the set morals. The employed youths should provide basic needs like food, water, shelter, and medical care for the elderly so as their other financial needs. The youths are supposed to assist in settling family disputes such as land wrangles among the elderly. The youths are supposed to educate the elderly who didn’t have a chance to go to school"

Another interesting activity we have done is to bring the older and the young in the same learning environment about Income Generating Activities; The young and old worked in groups, it was very interesting to see, the older persons felt included, enhanced their self esteem and the young appreciated the old as still useful

I will be happy to work with you.

Together we can make a difference.


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