Intergenerational programming benefits the older adults who participate—and also benefits the youth participants and the community at large. The first intergenerational program of significance (in Cleveland, Ohio ), the Foster Grandparent Program, was created in 1963 in response to social concerns surrounding poverty. The organization paired lower-income older adults (ages 60 and up) with special needs children. The goal was twofold: to provide one-on-one support to the children while reducing the sense of isolation among the adults. Since then, intergenerational programs have expanded to address numerous social concerns.
Benefits: Older Adults
Older adults who volunteer live longer and have better physical and mental health—and older adults who regularly volunteer with youth “burn 20% more calories per week, experienced fewer falls, were less reliant on canes, and performed better on a memory test,” according to Generations United. Even when the adults were dealing with dementia or other cognitive impairments, they demonstrated more positive effects when they interacted with children (compared with participating in non-intergenerational activities).
Intergenerational programming helps older adults be productive and engaged with the community. As they interact with youth, they also learn about new innovations and technologies.
Children who are involved in intergenerational mentoring programs are:
- 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol
- 52 percent less likely to skip school
They develop “skills, values, and a sense of empowerment, leadership, and citizenship … social networks, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, positive attitudes towards aging, a sense of purpose and community service . . . [and] good self-esteem.”
One of the major benefits of intergenerational programs, is bringing together diverse groups and helping to reduce inaccurate stereotypes as older adults and youth develop relationships with one another. They help to “build a sense of personal and societal identity while encouraging tolerance.”