By Helen Hirsh Spence.
We weren’t sure what to expect when Top Sixty decided to launch, “We Need To Talk”, a series of intergenerational dialogues. In the true spirit of experimentation, we accepted the fact that ‘failure’ would represent a valuable lesson in learning and decided to give it a try. Fortunately the outcome was extremely positive. To date, 100% of participants who responded said they would recommend the series to others.
Our goal is to foster a sense of community, encourage greater cross-generational understanding, and for all participants to generate new connections, one breakout group at a time. With the assistance of some of our participants, we are in the process of fine-tuning the hour-long dialogue scheduled for noon EST on Wednesday, February 24th.
Our January format worked well. Val Fox, Chief Innovation Consultant at the Pivotal Point, told us a bit about her personal and professional life. The latter was inspired by Star Trek: The Next Generation where Gene Roddenberry imagines a world where “no one has gone before”. Val acknowledges that her entire career was catapulted forward by this introduction to the series which echoed her belief “to live to learn, and to live to explore”. Innovation and creativity have always been hallmarks of her numerous accomplishments.
The theme that ran through Val’s successful business practices, and which aligns with the purpose of our “Dialogues”, is how to build community and enable positive change. Creating community that helps others grow and thrive necessitates overcoming the fear of the unknown, such as using technology or meeting people serendipitously. Through connection, however, we are all able to spot opportunity, ideate, solve challenges or talk about their importance, and form linked chains, a literal ‘world wide web’.
Val’s theme is central to our purpose as well. The best way to combat ageism, racism, sexism, etc. is to cross those generational, gender, and racial divides. Ageism intersects with them all, although it is largely not even considered as one of the “isms” in about 80% of diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. Much of the unsolicited feedback about our session acknowledged how the “Dialogue” brought together interesting groups of people with whom the participants had meaningful exchanges of thoughts and experiences.
This is how community is created and fostered. Over 90% of survey participants responded that they left with a greater feeling of community, and 85% made 1-4 new connections. All of these encounters will lead to new possibilities, greater empathy and understanding of others, and a diminished sense of isolation and loneliness.
Accommodating the preferences of our diverse group of participants will necessitate coming up with occasional speakers, more time for discussion, and new formats, but with the broad encouragement of last week’s participants, we plan to make it happen.
A few of our other learnings include:
- Some group members were surprised to discover how open their younger counterparts were to building relationships with them. Younger members admitted that older adults can sometimes be quite intimidating and this type of format facilitated access to them.
- Others expressed that it was the younger people in professional circles or on LinkedIn who have been most helpful to them in finding employment in their later years.
- About two thirds of the group experienced loneliness occasionally or rarely, and yet the majority were eager to make new connections.
- Mentoring was a theme for several groups. Top Sixty will be exploring possibilities to enable more informal connections across generations.
- Generational ideas of leadership in the workplace and different thoughts around retirement/careers vs lifestyles was a topic of interest.
Strikingly, general consensus is that there is a need to find ways to enhance intergenerational dialogue and we are on it!
Please mark 12:00 noon EST, February 24th in your calendars today. We will push out more details in the coming weeks.
We’d also invite you to bring along at least one new “friend” to join us for that hour of “possibility” or to quote our inspired speaker, Val Fox, for that “sweet spot in time and space when significant change happens”.