Intergenerational Forum – On Life and Issues of Death & Dying

Intergenerational Forum at PanoramaWritten by Panorama staff. May 2016

“Do you remember thinking about death when you were younger? Or even thinking about aging for that matter?

As we age, our perception of life and thoughts about death change but is it something we can talk about? How do we bring it up with our kids or grandkids? These are some of the questions we’re exploring with our year long Embracing Life program.

One concern of vital importance for each of us is communicating to our loved ones how we want our lives to go on as we age and what a good death looks like to each of us as individuals. If there comes a time when we need their support at the end of life or if they need to make decisions on our behalf, we can feel more confident knowing our wishes are understood.

In exploration of this, we hosted an Intergenerational Forum which included a panel of 4 High School Seniors and 4 Seniors Who Once Were in High School. The four high school seniors joined us from Timberline, South Sound, Riveridge, and North Thurston high schools, while the four “young but not as young” seniors were all Panorama residents. Questions were posed to each age group and surprisingly, we found more commonalities than differences.

1) What is old?

High School Seniors:

“Old is not a number; it’s how mature you are.”

“Old isn’t necessarily a thing you have to be; it’s all about mentality.”

“The older you get, the more you mature as a person; it’s about how you grow.”

Panorama Seniors:

“Being old is a privilege; you can really appreciate the wonderful things around you and let go of the petty things.”

“I’ve enjoyed every era of life.”

2) What do you want your life story to be? How will you “Embrace Life”?

High School Seniors:

“I want to do the most I can to help people; I want to be remembered as a good person.”

“I want to know that other people enjoyed life because of my presence.”

“I want to know that I built something good. It’s so easy to tear apart but I want to know that I built.”

“I think about how I want to feel at the end. On my death bed, what will I wish I did more of? Top of the list, for me,  is time with family.”

Panorama Seniors:

“Are we making a difference? That’s something I’ve come to think about every single day as I’ve gotten older.”

“My mother always said ‘To make life worth something you must live with as much joy as you can.’ and that’s something I’ve tried to live by.”

3) Do youth today have respect for seniors like the generation before them did?

High School Seniors:

“Lack of respect comes from lack of empathy.”

“We just have to understand that we’re not different; we were just born at different times.”

“We have to know that one day we have the option to be what they are.”

“Contact is crucial to find common ground – to work together to grow the community as a whole.”

“{If intergenerational communication was more common} kids wouldn’t be so scared of growing up.”

Panorama Seniors:

“Each generation thinks the next generation is not as good as they were. But maybe they could be better. It varies from person to person.”

“Lack of intergenerational communication contact creates a lack of understanding and respect. Communication bridges that.”

“{My wife and I}…participate in Road Scholar and have had the opportunity to see our grandkids interact with kids their age in a positive way – that helps provide perspective for us.”

“I must be the only 80+ person playing online Playstation but I get to interact with multiple generations in the game and we talk generally about everything together.”

“We have so much in common – if only we just talk to each other.”

4) Do you talk about death and dying?

High School Seniors:

“We do talk about it but in the way of living your life.”

“I don’t really think about death. I don’t want to think about it. I want to have a life where I know I built something bigger than death – I built life.”

“A lot of younger people don’t think about their actions now; they don’t think ahead to the legacy they will leave behind.”

Panorama Seniors:

“I look forward to the time when I can speak openly with my family {about death} & we can express our love.”

“We’ve dealt with the administrative issues {of death} but not the deep stuff, such as what we want our legacy to be.”

“When you’re really young, you just don’t relate to it. When we get older, we think much more about the manner of death we want.”

“The difficulty is family members struggle with hearing us talk about it and hearing our wishes.”

“Many times, grandchildren can talk to grandparents easier than they can with their parents. It’s a good thing to talk to grandparents.”

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Register online for our Embracing Life Conference (June 9th) for an opportunity to learn about how to talk to your loved ones about your legacy and your wishes.

To read about last year’s  Intergenerational Forum visit this post.

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