We’ve probably all heard about the challenges of the so-called “generation gap,” which tends to emphasize the differences between and among different age groups. By contrast, there’s a whole new movement that recognizes the value and importance of bringing generations together through intergenerational programs. For instance, intergenerational relationships have been proven to have a significant and positive impact on young people's lives, with those involved in them being 55% less likely to skip school than their peers as well as 78% more likely to volunteer regularly, and 130% more inclined toward leadership.
How does that work, and how well does it work? Here are just six of the many benefits these programs are bringing to participants of all ages!
1. It energizes older adults and gives them a sense of purpose, especially when they’re sharing their experiences and skills.Working with children can even have health benefits for older adults. According to Generations Unlimited, older adults who regularly volunteer with children burn more calories per week, experience fewer falls, and do better on memory tests than their peers.
2. Intergenerational relationships reduce the sense of isolation for older adults and potentially relieve or lessen depression.We know that loneliness and depression are big concerns for today’s seniors. By providing a venue for seniors to interact with younger generations, they get the opportunity to build lasting relationships. That’s what happened at the Buddy Program in Billings, MT. As one of the participating teachers put it, “Originally, the program began as a way to share what was happening in the younger generation and show how technology is now helping today’s students learn with seniors. But it actually grew from this original idea. Friendships were built!”
3. All generations learn new skills.Older adults can learn new technologies from the younger generation and youth can benefit from mature mentoring from their wise friends. In an earlier blog, we talked about how “intergenerational mentoring works to break down the generational barriers between today’s youth and seniors. Through spending time and participating in activities together, some of the benefits for students and seniors can be a higher sense of purpose and self-esteem. It is truly a mutually beneficial learning experience.”
4. Intergenerational relationships can help younger generations understand aging and face their own with more positivity.One example is The Learning Center at Cypress Palms at The Palms of Largo, an experiential preschool managed by The Goodman Group in Largo, FL. Here, kids and their “grandfriends” interact daily. The children see residents using assistive devices like walkers and wheelchairs on a regular basis, dispelling any concerns or fears they may have. It also “gives teachers the opportunity to explain what those devices are for and how they help. It lets the kids know that aging or disabilities are nothing to fear or feel uncomfortable about. It also reassures them that their older friends are being well cared for and loved.”
5. It can dispel negative stereotypes and encourage bonding among generations.One executive director told the story of how someone with dementia became very close with two shy seven-year-old twin girls during Intergenerational Theater Productions™ put on by a partnership between The Commons on Marice in Eagan, MN, and Missoula Children’s Theatre. “When they got paired with this resident, they immediately bonded with her. She became a grandma to them and they would not let go of her leg. She was on cloud nine.”
6. For children and youth who don’t have grandparents or other seniors in their families, engaging with older adults fills a social gap.This engagement presents a unique opportunity to enhance the lives of both groups through intergenerational connections. By sharing knowledge, experiences, and perspectives with one another, seniors can help young people pursue their dreams while gaining a better quality of life for themselves as well. The meaningful bond between generations has immeasurable potential to bring growth in both directions!
These are just a few of the benefits that intergenerational programs and events offer. Learn more about this topic and many more by becoming a subscriber to our blog today!