Sandy Kraemer’s intergeneration nation

Sandy Kraemer is fond of saying, “Procrastination is life’s greatest saboteur.” And for 50-plus years, this Colorado Springs attorney has fought such sabotage with passion — and enviable success.

Colorado Springs attorney Sandy Kraemer
Courtesy Sandy Kraemer

In addition to practicing law, Kraemer has written widely lauded books on renewable energy and estate planning. He has served on bodies as diverse as the World Jurist Association, the White House Conference on Children and Youth, and the University of Colorado Board of Regents. He has made possible the Kraemer Family Library at UCCS, lobbied successfully for greater access to local public lands, and even patented toys and children’s games playable on those lands.

But creating the Intergeneration Foundation may represent Kraemer’s most ambitious effort of all. Based out of his downtown law office, the foundation (née the Fountain Institute) seeks to catalyze greater communication and understanding among people of different ages, and to “entrench” these exchanges into the fabric of our culture.

“From observing more than 5,000 clients and their estate plans,” Kraemer says, “I am convinced that the transfer of values is more important than the transfer of money.”

Kraemer’s foundation launched Intergeneration Day worldwide in 2000. In 2013, it made September into Intergeneration Month. As of today, 43 state governors have issued supporting proclamations for one or the other.

With this year’s month-long celebration fast approaching, I felt fortunate to talk with Kraemer this week about ways that average people can help advance his intergenerational mission. Here are three.

  1. Participate in the 2016 “Your Story Contest.” Considered by Kraemer to be “by far, our most successful project,” the Intergeneration Storytelling Contest solicits short stories from people worldwide. Among the few restrictions: Stories must include characters from more than one generation, and must be original and unpublished. Fiction, nonfiction or a combination is welcome. Published authors choose winners, who receive cash prizes and/or certificates, as well as online publication. This year’s deadline is Sept. 30; visit the website for more.
  1. Family Story Coupons invite an exchange of intergenerational information.
    Kraemer suggests breaking out a few Family Story Coupons at the kitchen table.

    Print and use “Family Story Coupons.” Newly posted to the Intergeneration Month website, these printable tickets allow one family member to solicit a story from a loved one. To illustrate the importance of storytelling, Kraemer points to research showing that children who know their family narrative generally are more emotionally healthy and happy. His wife, Dorothy, meanwhile, points to Kraemer’s own family. She believes her husband’s life role model was his grandfather, Frederick Blocki — someone he never actually met, but came to know through his mother’s stories.

  1. Stage an Intergeneration Month event. Intergeneration Month endorsers include large organizations such as the American Library Association and the American Alliance of Museums. Yet Kraemer says relatively small groups have staged some of the most noteworthy events. He remembers a local retirement community drawing dozens of residents out of their rooms one September day by bringing in Boy Scouts, caricature artists, fortune-tellers and more for an intergenerational celebration. You can find suggested activities and events here. And though the Intergeneration Foundation would love to know what you’re up to, you need not request any sort of formal approval for your idea.

Bottom line: Of all the dangers posed by procrastination, one of the worst may be missing opportunities to connect with and learn from those around you. So consider joining Kraemer’s fight this September. You’re sure to be in good company.