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When an elder makes a contribution to the community, what is the benefit to the community and to the person making the contribution?

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When elders make contributions to the community, there are major benefits to both parties.  Let us examine some of the ways in which this is true.

One way that elders contribute to our community is by helping their younger relatives with the problems and demands of parenting.  The benefits to both parties here are very important.  The younger relatives are relieved of a great deal of stress.  For example, if a child gets sick at school in the morning, a grandparent can pick them up and care for them.  This relieves the parent of the need to, perhaps, worry about losing a job because of having to leave to care for the child.  But the grandparent also benefits.  The grandparent gets to feel as if they are contributing to their family.  They get to forge a stronger relationship with their grandchildren, particularly if they are called on often to care for those children.

The same sort of effects can be seen when elders help the community at large.  As I said in a previous answer, my father, who is about to turn 77, volunteers at a “language lab,” helping immigrants learn English.  The immigrants benefit because their English improves, allowing them to get better jobs or even just to help their children with their homework.  They also have the ability to ask for more general kinds of help from a person who was once an immigrant himself and who therefore understands some of their issues.  At the same time, my father benefits greatly.  He benefits because he can continue to feel that he is making a difference in someone’s life.  He gets to feel that he still has value to society.

The same sorts of dynamics exist even when elders are contributing in less tangible ways.  If an elderly person gives a younger person advice, the younger person can avoid making mistakes.  The elder benefits, once again, because they get to feel useful and to feel that they are making a difference.

In these ways, contributions from the elderly are certainly a win-win situation for society and for the elders. 

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