How the elderly are helping young people

Video competition shines the spotlight on intergenerational influence

By Nigel Richards, President, Heart to Home Meals

In a world dominated by social media where every action and comment are instantly available, where relationships are defined by emojis and algorithms, it is heartening to reflect on the bonds that still exist between different generations.

Yet, this is also a time when studies suggest young people feel more loneliness than any other age group. Fitting in has never been harder.

Anyone who examines the level of peer pressure being faced by kids today can appreciate the difficulty in finding someone who can offer an anchor of support without being judgemental.  Too often, it is about espousing opinions.  Few are there to listen.

The advice of peers is particularly influential when people are entering adulthood.  While parents try their best to offer guidance, this is usually the time when apathy towards mom and dad is at its highest.

Who fills that void?  To find some answers, we launched a video competition.  We asked higher education students to tell us about someone who has had an important role in their life.  A generation ago, this type of competition would have involved the written word, now the medium is video.  Technology, particularly the smartphone, allows us to communicate visually, so why not ask young adults to capture their stories this way?

That was the genesis of “Show a Little Heart”.  The competition wanted young people to examine their relationship with an influential elderly person (that could be a relative, a neighbour etc.) and then tell us about it.  We wanted to know about the impact this person had on the formative years of an individual moving into adulthood. 

We wanted young people to share stories that would be an inspiration to others and provoke discussions about the subject.

As you might expect, many students left it until the last minute to submit their entries (just like universities and colleges we had to extend the deadline!) but we were struck by the powerful, and in most cases, emotional messages delivered.

Looking through the videos there is also another theme. Taken collectively the entries reflect the very core of what is modern day Canada: diversity and compassion.  The voices offering guidance included Francophone, Chinese, Indian, Jamaican and Colombian.

Some of the stories centred on objects – recently rediscovered letters from a World War Two veteran offering insight into his life-forming event or a 1924 Stradivarius replica fiddle given by a great grandparent and still being played on the streets of Toronto today. 

Some of the life lessons were received through osmosis, by observing people taking part in traditional hobbies like knitting or even making soup!

One video looked at the overwhelming sense of helplessness one feels towards someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.  The grandparent is no longer able to remember the lessons she passed along or even recognize the grandchild who was the recipient of that knowledge. To see a loved one drifting helplessly away is all the more difficult when that person was so inspirational in your life.

All the videos are a reminder to cherish the special times, however mundane they sometimes feel, with loved ones.

For Heart to Home Meals launching this competition was about, in a small way, encouraging more dialogue between generations.  We believe the interaction benefits both parties and there is no downside. Rarely in life is there such an obvious win-win situation.

At a time when every business decision appears to be focussed on ROI (return on investment) our goal was to take a few moments to go against the grain and reflect on relationships. 

We hoped young people would take part and we were heartened at the passion and love expressed in the videos.

What is also clear from many of the stories we received, is a willingness by seniors to embrace new technology if it allows them to remain part of a young person’s life. 

While many young people feel isolated there is an alternative, if they are able to invest some time maintaining that special bond with an elderly person. Young people value wisdom and sometimes the best person to convey that information is someone who is a generation apart.

Winners were announced June 1

To see the winning videos, click here

First Prize $1,000 CASSIDY MCAULIFFE “Call of the Lake”, Sudbury 

Second Prize $500 CATHERINE KELLY “The Little Joys”, Ottawa

Third Prize $300 DAVID GARZON “Helena & Laura”, Toronto