I am in the 4th decade of my life and it’s a great place to be. Not because “40 is the new 30, and soon 50 will be the new 40” or any other click bait headlines that appeal to our existing ageist notions of what it means to be young or old, but because I get to share experiences with those both older and younger on a regular basis. This wasn’t always such an easy option when I was 20 years younger. It happened of course, but my teenage self wasn’t looking to hang out with thirty somethings and likewise outside of an educational context they felt the same.
Intergenerational living and training opens you up to sharing experiences and learning from those both younger and older than you. There is much to learn from each group, they are both our teachers and inspiration. There is a richness of experience that comes as a result.
I was given a stark reminder of this last summer when training in Denmark at the beach park designed by Street Movement’s Mikkel Rugaard. The space is a great example of inter-generational public space for play, movement, exploration and challenge. If you train parkour then you would say it’s a “parkour park”, if you were a grandparent taking your grandchildren for a walk you’d say it was a “playground”, for others it might be a climbing frame, the ‘walls and bars park”, or simply the play and exercise space.
Over the period of an afternoon I saw children as young as 3 or 5 clamber around the rails, hang off bars and draw with sticks and stones on the concrete walls as they imagined the large surface had been placed there with them in mind. I saw skilled parkour athletes move at height as they traversed a route across the tops of the bars and scaled concrete walls with ease. Fitness enthusiasts jogged by and others trained their pull ups and other classic bar workout drills. Meanwhile others sat on the walls and watched on with delight at the diversity of people and movements at play and on display.
There was a challenge I wanted to try, a ‘jump to break’ that involved taking off from a rail and landing against a wall with my hands grabbing the top and feet landing against it; in parkour terminology, a cat leap or arm jump. I could make the jump from a slightly closer bar at an angle but to do it in the same way that my friend Signe Skov Christensen did took more commitment and strength.
We weren’t the only ones playing in that particular part of the park that afternoon. A bright eyed 6 year old girl was equally invested in exploring and playing. Everytime I went to try and break the jump, going through the inner dialogue of “yes I can, I’m scared. Just go for it…shit, why can’t I just commit? Ok I’m ready, yes, no, yes…” and so it went on; my new little friend would appear and come close to where my feet were.
It might sound cute and adorable but in the moment I felt annoyed…momentarily. She wasn’t helping my process. She could have been perceived as an other obstacle, part of the environmental challenges to overcome, but she wasn’t. She wanted to chat and I don’t speak Danish but this didn’t stop her from trying. After the frustration passed I smiled and my thoughts changed to ‘how cool is it that she gets to see adults like myself and Signe moving in this way. Seeing my fear and hesitation.’ Adults moving in the way that we were was normalised for her that day. Women doing pull ups, running up walls and moving across high bars is just something that happens. Nothing to write home about if you are in Copenhagen and play at Amager Beach StrandPark. Thinking this made me very happy! She taught me to remember the importance of sharing what we do and what a beautiful thing it was to have that moment; seeing her excitement and anticipation of whether I would or wouldn’t break my jump that day.
I didn’t break the jump and left the location feeling fine with the way things worked out. We shared the space and that’s important.
This is the first in a series of blogs on intergenerational training. I’m sure many people have their stories and anecdotes similar to mine. Let me know and celebrate the intergenerational moments that contribute to the rich tapestry of life.
If you are interest in reclaiming and working on creating a Strong Body and Strong Mind, I recommend you check out the See&Do online introductory level course STRONG BODY STRONG MIND. You can find more information HERE.