Strengthening intergenerational ties through reading and writing

Posted on May 13, 2024

Reading offers many benefits. In addition to reducing stress and keeping the brain healthy, it may even be a key to living a long and happy life. And writing is said to have positive effects on working memory and to alleviate physical and psychological pain. Could reading and writing also strengthen intergenerational ties? In my opinion: yes! Here are some activities that can bring adults and seniors closer together.

A life lived

For an entire winter when I was a child, my mother spent her Sunday afternoons talking with my grandmother and taking notes. A few months later, every grandchild was gifted a book written and published by my mother: Grandma’s biography. Since I was still very young when my grandmother passed away, I was able to learn about her story through this book. A loved one’s memories are a precious keepsake that can tell of a time and place we’ve never known.

If you don’t think you have the writing skills needed to start from scratch, you can easily find a memory journal in a bookstore. These customizable books can be personalized and include space for photos. Give one to a loved one, and help them record their memories. And your story doesn’t have to be chronological; you can choose a theme (travel, holiday traditions) or a period (the ’70s) together. All you really need to create a lovely keepsake book are a notebook, pens and photos.

Old-fashioned correspondence

Have you ever corresponded with someone you know? I love finding a letter from someone I care about in my mailbox. Try suggesting to a senior that you write to each other regularly, depending on the free time you each have available.

Why put pen to paper and write the old-fashioned way in this era of technology? Writing by hand stimulates several areas of the brain, including those linked to motor skills, thinking and memory. And these benefits apply to everyone: both the young and not-so-young! What’s more, each person’s handwriting is unique, which makes handwritten messages much more personal than those typed on a keyboard. It can be fun to bring a pen and paper with you to different places (a café, a museum, a picnic) to write your letters. I always have something to write with in my bag!

If you don’t find everyday life to be an inspiring topic, try describing your surroundings, a meal you’ve enjoyed, the book you’re reading or something you’re dreaming about. You can also choose a different theme for each exchange, but you don’t have to.

An adaptable book club

Reading can be enjoyed in many different ways. A person sitting alone on their sofa with a book doesn’t necessarily have to be the first image that springs to mind. Make reading an opportunity to socialize.

Find a location, invite one or more people, and explore literature in a creative way. If members of the book club feel a novel is too long, choose short stories, poetry or excerpts from longer works. If some people have difficulty reading, read out loud to the group or suggest audiobooks. You can even read a scene from a play together and each act out one of the characters! Technology can be helpful for including those who have difficulty getting around or who must avoid contact with others. The important thing is to make space for discussion and emotions to arise!

And if you live in a shared living environment, such as an apartment or condo building, ask the owner about setting up a mobile library or book box nearby. In addition to making interesting literary discoveries, you could also meet some great people!

A sense of well-being

Reading and writing are great ways to build relationships and overcome isolation: yet two more benefits these activities offer when we remove their usual label of solitary activity. And I haven’t even mentioned their main benefit yet. In my opinion, reading and writing are likely to spark joy, an emotion connected to our overall well-being. Be creative! And remember, you’ll get out of something what you put into it!


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The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Marise Guay

Marise Guay

Marise Guay

After completing a degree in translation, Marise Guay began working as a translator for the Translation Bureau. Later, she became a language analyst, focusing on clear communication and language content creation. She has since taken on a broader range of tasks, which include managing web content, drafting promotional texts and writing social media posts.




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