Intergenerational Programs are Growing

Senior centers and senior communities in hundreds of locations across the globe have now begun to bring children to visit seniors on a regular basis. Some pre-schools have sprung up in the same buildings where seniors congregate for clubs, exercise and meals. Even the experts are amazed how these programs have become the most popular activities they offer. If you’re the care partner for an elderly loved one, check in to your local senior center and see if they offer an intergenerational program.

Almost all seniors love to feel needed and have purpose in their lives. Many hospitals encourage elders to come down and rock babies. It’s proven that human contact and a kind voice helps many infants recover faster from illnesses. It’s also a fact that most elders love to rock a baby!

Schools and libraries count on seniors to help out with reading programs. Some help children learn to read while others read out loud from those wonderful children’s books. It’s obvious to any who have watched an elder read to children how much both love the experience.

I have a part time job down at a local elementary school where a number of “retired” seniors also work part time. When I see Mr. Al, there’s usually a crowd of children around him. He loves interacting with the kids and the students adore him. He works just a couple of hours a day helping children cross the street and attending to them during recess. His wife works in the cafeteria as a cashier where she is very popular with the students. If your dad has declined after a retirement, you might encourage him to volunteer or take a part time job.

Keeping elders connected to youngsters is a perfect way to keep them healthy. Isolation is the worst thing for anyone, so encourage your elder to stay in touch, to get involved with people, and tell them how much it will mean to this next generation.

Intergenerational Programs: Not Just Nice, But Necessary

By Trent Stamp, Next Avenue Contributor   SEP 26, 2016 @ 02:31 PM

As America ages, we must change how we see older adults and their ability to engage intergenerationally with their younger peers. The future of aging can only be enhanced if we recognize that our success and the national interest depend on connecting generations for good.

True intergenerational programs are, as Nancy Henkin of Temple University says, “not nice, but necessary.” When implemented correctly and intentionally, intergenerational programs can provide a multiplier effect in which both children, especially those from low-income families and communities, and older adults benefit, and transformative, measurable results can be created for society as a whole.

The benefits of intergenerational programs can flow both ways. There are countless examples of younger people assisting older adults in areas like access to technology or working on behalf of seniors to address social or economic isolation. But here we’ll focus on intergenerational programs that engage older adults as resources to address the challenges faced by youth.

A Day Care Center in an Assisted-Living Facility

Consider Ebenezer Ridges Day Care Center in Burnsville, Minn. This nondescript establishment is recognized locally as the preeminent program for toddlers and has a waiting list that befits its status, despite a small nonprofit budget. To what does Ridges attribute its success? The center became special when it decided to move inside an assisted-living facility. Now, the kids have daily access to surrogate grandparents to teach and support them.

There’s AARP Experience Corps, which sought to create a program to improve the reading skills of children from impoverished neighborhoods. To do so, it decided to mobilize older people as tutors in the schools. Students working with Experience Corps members have shown 60% gains in critical literacy skills compared to those without access to these older volunteers, and the boost in their reading skills is equivalent to placing them in classrooms with 40% fewer students, according to researchers from Washington University in St. Louis.

Where Older Adults and Foster Kids Live Together

And then there’s Bridge Meadows, a housing community in Portland, Ore., for families adopting children out of foster care. There, the child welfare specialists believed that the best way to increase the odds of success for these vulnerable families was to bring in seniors to live in the community. The seniors agree to help these new families, tutoring the kids, doing housework and serving as respite care for often-overwhelmed parents. The long-term success rates for these families exceed other traditional foster care support service models, and other states are eager to replicate the Bridge Meadows model.

In the case of these organizations, and countless others, the success rates outpace those of their similarly intentioned and funded peers. The difference is that more modestly performing organizations have yet to embrace the idea of using the resource of older adults to help achieve their ends.

The intergenerational organizations subscribe to a Moneyball-like belief that the best way to achieve a societal goal in an underresourced environment is to find an underutilized and undervalued resource and use it to one’s advantage. Here, the underutilized resource is older citizens.

We have an opportunity and an obligation to use every resource at our disposal to fight society’s most intractable and relentless challenges. By utilizing the talents of older adults and investing in intergenerational solutions, we can make our world a better place. The data overwhelmingly shows that when we engage seniors and young people around a specific outcome measure, good things happen.

Laura Carstensen of Stanford University has shown that older people are uniquely skilled in creating close relationships, especially with children. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry has proven that children with an older adult in their lives are less likely to have behavioral or psychiatric problems. Children learn better from older adults.

Possibly Our Kids’ Best Chance

This may be our kids’ best chance — to learn from a caring older adult who not only has “been there and done that,” but has a biological and instinctive need to give the next generation the best opportunity to succeed.

Finally, when we engage older adults and kids together — not merely to hearken back to an era that was not quite as intergenerational as we like to pretend but because it’s the proven way to get things done — we can demonstrate that our aging population is a resource to be utilized.

Our society should enlist older adults for the common good, and especially the advancement of our children. Ignoring our seniors is the equivalent of waiting for a natural resources to mature, mining it for a time, then throwing the resource away before it can provide its full benefit.

The future of aging can be bright if we find ways to bring our oldest and youngest citizens together for the betterment of our communities. It’s not just a nice idea. It’s necessary.

European Network in Intergenerational Learning <– they surely are ahead of us.

The main aim of the European Network in Intergenerational learning is to promote Intergenerational Learning by bringing together and supporting sustainable, effective practice in the field and by facilitating the exchange of ideas and expertise beyond individual projects, and by creating a mechanism for practitioners to influence policy and practice.

The Network responds to the need identified among practitioners to offer a platform and incentives for fostering new ideas and new developments in intergenerational  learning across Europe, and to provide the infrastructure for on-going exchange of expertise, good practice, news, research and developments in the field. screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-37-13-am




Here’s an example of what we have planned for Brevard. If they can do it, we can do it, too!


Ebenezer Intergenerational Day Program,
Burnsville, Minn.

Intergenerational Day Program at Ebenezer Ridges

Stock_withFamily19_LrgVert_FAN1005091This innovative program provides day care for young children and includes interaction with participants in an adult day program for seniors. Something magical happens every day at the Ebenezer Intergenerational Day Program when the young and the old spend time together. As they help each other and learn from one another, an unmistakable bond forms that rises above differences in age and ability. Here you will find more information about enrolling in the Adult Day program, and here about the Child Care program.

Set on the Ebenezer Ridges Campus in Burnsville, our adult day program participants gather daily in a designated space with toddlers and preschoolers from our child care program. Whether they are singing songs, baking cookies or making crafts together, one thing is for sure: there is never a shortage of happy smiles and laughter.

Our intergenerational space includes:

  • A computer center 
  • Games, toys and puzzles 
  • A plentiful supply of books to read by the fireplace 
  • An area for arts and crafts 
  • Kitchen area for baking cookies 
  • Outdoor playground and patio 

Why it works
Building on Ebenezer’s faith-based heritage, our intergenerational program helps bridge the generation gap. Children learn respect for older adults and compassion for their physical limitations. Older adults maintain self-worth by sharing their lives and experiences. Children bring life, spirit and joy to seniors on the campus, keeping them young at heart. The attention and encouragement of seniors helps children flourish. 

Ebenezer Ridges Intergenerational Program received national recognition two years in a row. The 2009 Generations United Shared Site Award and the 2010 Generations United/MetLife Foundation Intergenerational Shared Site Excellence Award recognize excellence in bringing generations together.

(This could read is Florida) Is Kentucky ready for the ‘silver tsunami’ of boomers? One researcher says no

What Does Intergenerational Mean?

Intergenerational refers to the selection and coordination of activities that enrich multiple generations. When seniors and children join in activities, seniors recall favorite songs, games, and projects of their pasts as they share their skills, patience, and expertise with pre-schoolers. When older adults tutor young people, they bring critical one-on-one attention to the youths’ skill building, while the young people make seniors more comfortable with new technologies. This reciprocity builds mutual respect and a sense of community, providing children and adults with diverse role models. The extraordinary relationships formed last throughout our participants’ lives.

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