Building Intergenerational Relationship



Do young people really need meaningful relationships with adults?

IMG_4257Everyone seems to agree that “relationships matter.” But what is it about relationships that matter? Why are some relationships transformative for young people’s development and success, while others seem to have little if any impact? Across the past two decades, Search Institute and others have shown that the number and intensity of high quality relationships in young people’s lives is linked to a broad range of positive outcomes, including increased student engagement, improved academic motivation, better grades, higher aspirations for the future, civic engagement, more frequent participation in college-preparatory classes and activities, and a variety of other individual outcomes. We also know that high-quality relationships are characterized as caring, supportive, meaningful, reciprocal, and resulting in young people’s sense of agency, belonging, and competence.Source: Search Institute


Beliefs and actions

“Grading Grown-ups,” a study done by Search Institute and Lutheran Brotherhood in 2002, revealed that most young people and most adults in the United States feel that it’s important for the generations to connect. However, positive youth-adult relationships aren’t happening as often as they could. The report showed that, although adults know what they should provide for young people, few adults report that they actually do these things.

For instance:

80% of adults report that it is important to teach shared values to young people, but only 45% report taking action.

75% of adults report that it is important to have meaningful conversations with young people, but only 34% report actually engaging young people in meaningful conversations.

60% of adults report that it is important to share religious beliefs with young people, while only 35% are doing this.

77% of adults report that it is important to teach respect for cultural differences to young people, but only 36% actually do it.

76% of adults report that it is important to guide decision making in young people, while only 41% report acting on this belief.

Source: Scales, Peter C., Ph.D., Peter L. Benson, Ph.D., and Marc Mannes, Ph.D., with Nancy Tellett-Royce and Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner.  Grading Grown-Ups 2002: How Do American Kids and Adults Relate? Key Findings from a National Study. Copyright © 2002 by Search Institute.

Building an Intergenerational Community . . .

An intergenerational community is one where:

  • People of all ages are provided programs, policies, and practices that increase cooperation, interaction, and exchange between people of different generations
  • All ages are able to share their talents and resources, support each other in relationships, and help each other and the community

An Intergenerational Community benefits everyone . . .

Teens and Children:

  • Improved self esteem and self worth
  • Improved behavior
  • Increased involvement in school work
  • Improved sense of continuity
  • Improved sense of community
  • Increased bond to church or faith community

Older adults:

  • Enhanced life satisfaction
  • Decreased isolation
  • Expressed fulfillment and sense of purpose
  • Belief that their knowledge and skills are valued
  • Development of meaningful relationships
  • Learn new skills
  • Gain insight about young people
  • Appreciate help that is given

Neighborhoods and Communities:

  • Residents are more aware and appreciative of local cultural heritage, traditions and histories
  • Greater collaboration regarding neighborhood and community issues among public and private organizations and corporations
  • Heightened commitment to citizenship and community among young and old
Source:  Andrea Taylor, Ph. D. The Intergenerational Center, Temple University

What do Intergenerational Programs look like?

Here are 5 essential elements identified by The Intergenerational Center at Temple University:

Roles that are clear and meaningful for all participants.

Relationships that are intentionally fostered between youth and older adults.

Reciprocity between older adults and youth—everyone experiences both giving and receiving.

Recognition of the contributions made by all generations.

Responsiveness to clearly identified community needs.

(Bressler, Jeanette, Nancy Z. Henkin and Melanie Adler. Connecting Generations, Strengthening Communities: A Toolkit for Intergenerational Program Planners. Temple University Center for Intergenerational Learning.  © 2005. Print.)

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