Marc Freedman

Bridging the Generational Divide

In March, The Conduit hosted Marc Freedman, president and CEO of Encore.org, for a discussion around his book, ‘How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations’. In this piece, Senior Fellow at Encore, Julia Randell-Khan, provides an insight into the cross-generational conversation that ensued…

“The only resource big enough to help solve the problems facing the next generation is the older one.”
Marc Freedman, How to Live Forever

The power of intergenerational connection was in the spotlight at The Conduit on 26th March.

Even the pair on the stage were intergenerational. Conduit member Ndubuisi Uchea, 27, co-founder of Word on the Curb, an online broadcaster targeted at millennials and gen-z, interviewed Marc Freedman, 60, about his latest book, ‘How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations’.

Marc is the president and CEO of Encore.org, a US innovation hub tapping the talent of people 50+ as a force for good, and co-chair of its Gen2Gen campaign, mobilising 1 million adults 50+ in the US to help young people thrive. In a wide-ranging conversation, Ndu and Marc discovered they had lots in common across their 33-year age divide, including music and the role of grandparents in their lives…but perhaps not dance (Marc was relieved Ndu did not ask him to demonstrate his hip hop moves).

The questions raised were profound ones: With so many living so much longer, what is the meaning of the increasing years beyond 50? How can a society with more older people than younger ones thrive? How do we find happiness when we know life is long and time is short?

Marc’s new book, ‘How to Live Forever’, is a deeply personal reflection on his thirty-year quest to answer these urgent questions and more. The book has been called ‘both an intergenerational love letter and a practical manual for change’. But it is also a call to find fulfillment and happiness in our longer lives by connecting with the next generation and forging a legacy of love that lives beyond us.

When facing the potential of the 100-year life, Ndu and Marc discussed all that must change in our education systems to provide new opportunities for retraining, life-long learning, and the ability to mix purpose, earning and learning at every stage of life.

Marc referenced studies showing clearly that child development is drastically improved when a child has at least one adult who is “irrationally crazy” about them. Ndu reflected on changes in his own London neighbourhood in Paddington, as the community transformed from one of open doors and mixing of generations in his childhood to one of age segregation and distrust today. The result: a surge in loneliness and social isolation, affecting both younger and old people.

Still, Marc is optimistic that we can turn this around. He shared many examples of innovation by local groups stepping in to bridge the gap between generations, to everyone’s benefit. He described the US Nuns & Nones organisation, which connects nuns from various religious orders with millennials who tick the “none” box on forms asking about religious affiliation but who are seeking some form of spiritual connection. In one California community, nuns and “nones” are living together in a convent, building strong bonds and pursuing social change goals together.

Ndu mentioned a similar organisation in the UK, The Cares Family, a group of local community networks of young professionals and older neighbours hanging out and helping one another as a way to overcome the anonymity and isolation which so often goes hand in hand with metropolitan life.

Both Ndu and Marc had long and strong bonds with older women in their lives. They talked about their shared experiences of older mentors and grandparents who anchored their lives, offering support from both inside and outside their families. Great examples of the overriding message from the discussion — the only way to live forever is to live together.

Contact: info@encore.org or jrandellkhan@encore.org for information on the Encore Fellows programme in the UK.

About Julia Randell-Khan

 
Julia Randell-Khan is a volunteer Encore Fellow with Encore’s global program. She works closely with Betsy Werley, Director of Network Expansion, in developing Encore’s global strategy and building the movement internationally. Julia is from the UK and currently at Stanford University at the Distinguished Careers Institute and is a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford Center on Longevity. Julia spent over 25 years in the legal field, starting as a practicing lawyer in international banking, then moving to a pioneering knowledge management role for the international law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. This included developing the firm’s relationship program with leading law firms around the world. Julia is an active mentor and works closely with Fair Trials, a specialist human rights NGO. She also set up the Women in Transition network to support growth and development from change as senior women transition from long term careers to the next phase of life.

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