In Germany, which is experiencing an increasing disconnect between young people and the growing elderly population, Horst Krumbach is working to form relationships across generations to foster empathy, understanding, and life-long learning. Horst is changing how the elderly socially define themselves and how society perceives their value as persons.
Germany is experiencing an increasing disconnect between young people and the elderly population
The elderly population in Germany is growing
Horst is building a new model of how to build meaningful relationships between children and elderly inhabitants
He is creating spaces for young people to develop empathy
THE NEW IDEA
Addressing important societal consequences of major demographic change, Horst is developing new opportunities for intergenerational exchange and understanding through his organization, Bridging Generations Germany (GBD). Using a carefully structured methodology, he is building a new model of how to build meaningful relationships between children in primary schools and elderly inhabitants of nursing homes by facilitating recurring, one-on-one meetings between the children and their “grandpartners” and thereby introducing an important new dimension into the quality of life of all participants. With his readily scalable model, Horst is creating spaces for young people to develop empathy, emotional ties, and understanding for elderly people in need of care and affection during the last years of their lives.
Horst is using his proven successful model very purposively to change important dimensions of German life. First, he has developed a strategic and highly visible public relations initiative and, second, a similarly effective policy advocacy at the federal and state levels. With the aid of an expert and highly visible Advisory Board, he has developed a very promising scaling strategy for all of Germany and beyond.
Having pursued his formal education with a banking career in mind, Horst faced a first career transition in the late 1990s, when he questioned the impact of his work and the “scratch on history” of a conventional banking career. After considerable soul searching, Horst abandoned his banking career to pursue an interest since childhood—caring for the elderly. His first step was a position as an assistant accountant in a nursing home in Aachen, and in spite of the risks and financial sacrifices it involved, it felt right to him from the beginning. From assistant accountant, Horst was quickly promoted to assistant manager, and then to the nursing home’s manager—a position that provided welcome opportunities to become a changemaker in the eldercare field.
Drawing on his experience, Horst has developed deep insights into the weaknesses and challenges of most of the current array of eldercare institutions both in Germany and in other parts of Europe. He has learned that what is generally regarded as appropriate standards for good eldercare—as measured by adherence to established indicators of proper hygiene, nutrition, and nursing care—are by no means sufficient to assure a high, or even a satisfactory, quality of life or emotional health. During a foundation-funded opportunity to visit eldercare institutions in the US with widely varying operation models, he found the initial inspiration for the GBD approach, and building on that initial inspiration, he resigned as manager of the eldercare institution in Aachen to devote his full energies to the refinement and spread of the Bridging Generations model.
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