Intergenerationality, or the interactions between people of different ages, is essential to well-being and life satisfaction. While seniors and younger generations can benefit from intergenerational relationships, it may be difficult for families to develop and maintain meaningful connections. Societally, young people and older adults are becoming increasingly separated in living arrangements and choice of activity and leisure.
Fortunately, many organizations and facilities offer intergenerational programs. They arrange and facilitate enjoyable activities for seniors, family members, or younger community members. If seniors can find out about and access these programs, they will be able to benefit in numerous ways. Likewise, youth who engage with their elders through these opportunities can enrich their lives. Follow this detailed FAQ to learn more about intergenerational programs and seniors.
What Is an Intergenerational Program?
Anintergenerational program (IGP) is an organized activity for children, teenagers, and adults aged 60 years or older. The goal is to foster social connections and bridge gaps between generations, reduce negative stereotypes or perceptions, boost emotional and psychological well-being, and provide learning opportunities for each group. It may also encourage participation in other community projects and volunteer services.
What Are the Types of Intergenerational Programming?
An intergenerational program may be different depending on location, interest, funding, provider, or organizer. Specific organizations, community centers, schools, senior living centers, and hospitals may run various activities, or they may focus on one of these categories of intergenerational programming:
- Arts: Arts groups are an excellent way to learn more about specific art domains, practice their skills, and connect uniquely and engagingly. Common programs focus on theater, dance, storytelling, painting, and arts and crafts.
- Education: Education and discussion groups allow seniors and young people to learn from each other, consider different perspectives, and help each other grasp new and important topics. Popular programs include photography, reading groups, philosophy, religion or spirituality, languages, or games like chess and bridge.
- Assistance: Assistance groups center on young people helping older individuals, or vice versa, in some way. It may involve youth assisting with mobility, running errands, cooking, looking after pets, or learning a new skill. On the other hand, it may focus on older adults providing services for young children. They may rock babies, care for children, become mentors or tutors for children and teenagers, or offer support for families going through specific circumstances.
What Are the Benefits of Intergenerational Programs?
An intergenerational program can be advantageous to older adults, young individuals, and communities. Intergenerational benefits include:
It can be challenging for seniors to reach out or participate in activities, especially when isolated. Studies show that 48% of older adults may feel lonely, even though only 28% of older adults live alone. These numbers signal a need for programs emphasizing social connections and facilitating those engagements. One of the main benefits of intergenerational programming is developing relationships with others and the community.
Mental Health Improvement
When people experience social isolation and loneliness, their mental health may suffer significantly. 92% of Americans believe that intergenerational activities can help reduce these negative emotions at any age. In fact, many seniors report increased meaningfulness and reduced depressive symptoms because of intergenerationality. Accordingly, these types of mental health improvements can be linked to boosted health, happiness, and overall life satisfaction.
Increased Sense of Purpose
Seniors who feel useful are generally healthier and lead longer lives. Likewise, they can develop stronger self-esteem and self-worth if they have value to offer others. Since intergenerational programs allow older adults to become teachers or mentors or even simply provide sage advice to youth, they can develop an excellent sense of purpose over long-term participation.
New Knowledge and Skills
About 55% of Americans aged 40 or older have an interest in learning new things. Fortunately, when they do, they can improve their memory and even reduce the adverse side effects of memory disorders. Intergenerational programming allows older adults to learn new things, such as the latest technology, from the younger generation or gather fresh perspectives and ideas alongside youth in classes. Furthermore, these programs are mutually beneficial. They also improve children’s academic performance, enhance reading and writing, improve essential academic skills, and goal development.
Better Stamina and Strength
25% of seniors fall each year in the United States, some of which can be severe or fatal. Studies show that intergenerational programs can improve the health of older adults, resulting in better stability. Additionally, seniors may be more apt to engage in physical activity and social events because of their participation.
Reduced Age-Related Stereotypes
Intergenerational benefits include accurate understandings and perceptions of other age groups. Since youth and seniors have less contact and connections than in the past, intergenerational programming can assist in breaking down age-related stereotypes and discrimination. It can lead to more respectful interactions and meaningful relationships and even help individuals, especially children, develop empathy for others.
Ripple Effects on the Community
When younger and older generations can connect, learn, and accomplish goals or projects with one another, they can affect the whole community. Some intergenerational programs focus on efforts such as volunteer work in shelters or community gardens. The effects of these types of activities may be apparent, but others are less obvious. For instance, youth can better understand social responsibility and a sense of community, which may lead to further involvement. Or, when seniors are more socially active, healthier, and happier, it reduces pressure on other social and medical systems.
What To Look for In Intergenerational Activities?
Every individual will have their preference for an activity they may enjoy. Apart from choosing an intergenerational program that appeals to the specific person, whether painting or gardening, it is important to consider a few further factors. After all, the intergenerational benefits will depend greatly on if it is a good fit. Be sure to look into:
- Venue: The program should be in an easily accessible location. Community-organized programs may provide free transportation or vouchers for public transportation. There may also be long-distance options offered over the internet.
- Frequency: Some programs or events are intermittent. Individuals may find this enjoyable; however, benefits are more apparent in long-term offerings.
- Individual Capabilities: For those with limited or reduced abilities, programs that consider individuals and adjust their activities may be best. Some intergenerational programming allows and supplies extra support if necessary.
- Safety: Most programs do have monitors, especially if they are in a shared space. If the activity occurs at a residence or home, the organization should vet both parties and the location.
- Benefits: Certain programs may be more beneficial than others, especially for those with specific interests or skills, disabilities, or mental health issues.
Intergenerational programs have many benefits for seniors and youth alike.
Living Alone and the Older Adult