Suppose an elderly mother has cognitive challenges due to a stroke and her adult children fear she isn’t safe at home anymore. Or the son of a senior suspects the older man’s new romantic partner is taking advantage of him financially. These are difficult conversations that can lead to ruptured relationships.
That’s where intergenerational mediation comes in. Also known as elder mediation, it’s a form of alternative dispute resolution that focuses on conflicts concerning older adults. Skilled mediators provide a forum for older people and their loved ones to air their worries and begin charting a path forward.
With close to 20 per cent of the Canadian population over the age of 65, this type of mediation is increasingly in demand. Keep reading to learn more about this emerging specialty and how you can get involved in it.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What is Intergenerational Mediation?
- What Kinds of Issues Do Intergenerational Mediators Address?
- What’s the Value of Intergenerational Mediation?
- Family Mediation vs. Intergenerational Mediation: How Are They Different?
- Who Can Benefit From Intergenerational Mediation Training?
WHAT IS INTERGENERATIONAL MEDIATION?
Intergenerational mediation provides a structured and supportive environment to address issues involving older adults. It’s about helping families resolve disagreements and improve relationships.
“Intergenerational mediators deal with the effects the aging process has on families. The conflicts that often arise are what to do about Mom or Dad for their safety,” says accredited mediator and Kompass instructor Mary Joseph.
“Can they live at home? Do they fall down a lot? Are they forgetting things? Are they leaving the stove on? Are they eating properly?”
It’s a sensitive area because unlike children, who do not have the legal status to make their own decisions, adults can continue to make their own decisions until such time as they are found to be legally incapable of doing so.
Intergenerational mediation can involve more than just family—it often includes caregivers and service providers from hospitals or care homes. The goal is to provide a safe environment where people can voice their concerns and work through challenging conversations about problems related to aging.
WHAT KINDS OF ISSUES DO INTERGENERATIONAL MEDIATORS ADDRESS?
A variety of issues can cause friction among older adults and their family members or service providers. Some of the most common relate to:
- Wills, trusts, and inheritances
- Medical decision making
- Living arrangements
- Safety at home
- Abuse or neglect
- Financial management
- Family business matters
- End-of-life planning
“Let’s say Dad gets quite old and stops eating well or eating as much as he should. He starts to get very thin and the kids start to worry about him, but Dad insists he’s perfectly fine and is just not as interested in food as he used to be when he was younger. As distressing as that might be, it’s legally OK,” says Mary.
“The intergenerational mediator can help the families talk about their issues. They help the children talk about their fear and their love for their father and their frustration. They help the father talk about his need for independence and his sense of identity. And they look for a way to honour the needs of each party.”
WHAT’S THE VALUE OF INTERGENERATIONAL MEDIATION?
Intergenerational mediation can be a valuable tool in addressing the complex and sensitive issues that often arise in the care and well-being of older adults. Benefits include:
Improved communication: Mediation provides a structured and safe environment for older adults and their families to discuss and resolve conflicts. It helps improve communication and understanding between all parties involved.
Respect for autonomy: This form of mediation respects the autonomy and decision-making capacity of older adults. It allows them to express their wishes and preferences regarding important matters that affect them.
Preserving relationships: Intergenerational mediation aims to find solutions that allow people to maintain positive relationships with each other. It can even be used in a preventive way, helping families plan for the future before conflict arises in areas such as estate planning, long-term care, substitute decision making, and end-of-life decisions.
FAMILY MEDIATION VS INTERGENERATIONAL MEDIATION: HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
The differences between family mediation and intergenerational mediation are actually quite stark.
“Family mediators help couples separate, and intergenerational mediators help families stay together. It’s a fundamental difference of enhancing relationships as opposed to pulling apart the fabric of a relationship in a respectful way,” says Mary.
“Also, family mediation is generally between spouses or common-law partners and only involves two people. Intergenerational mediation is multi-party mediation, meaning it can involve the older adult, children, siblings, grandchildren, support people, etc.”
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM INTERGENERATIONAL MEDIATION TRAINING?
Family mediators will certainly find this training valuable. But anyone who works closely with older adults can benefit from learning how to handle conflicts concerning them.
“There’s a whole host of professions that could find these skills useful: estate lawyers, bankers, personal support workers, directors of senior residences, etc.” says Mary. “I was a minister, and it was an enormous benefit for me to get those skills.”
LEARN MORE ABOUT INTERGENERATIONAL MEDIATION
Explore the 12-week Intergenerational Mediation certificate offered by Kompass Professional Development. It’s delivered online and includes a mix of real-time lectures, mediation role-plays, and independent study.
Click below for more details.