Intergenerational programs bring children, youth, and older adults together


Author: Amanda Woodward

| Posted on: August,11

Intergenerational programs bring children, youth, and older adults together in a variety of ways to build relationships and benefit communities.  Although such programs are not new, there is a growing interest in them.  According to Generations United, a national organization that focuses on intergenerational programs, there are a variety of reasons for this increased interest.  These include the aging population, changing views about retirement and the recognition that older adults and youth are both important resources, increasing age segregation in communities and families living further apart (both of which limit intergenerational contact), and gaps in services for all age groups that need to be met in new and creative ways.

There is also a growing need for health care and social service professionals with expertise in geriatrics.  According to the American Geriatrics Society, only 3% of psychologists, less than 1% of registered nurses, and 4% of social workers specialize in working with older adults. Numerous studies have found that the more rewarding interactions students have with older adults, the more likely they are to pursue specialized geriatric training.  Intergenerational programs in universities and community colleges involving students considering health or social service careers may be one way to foster these interactions.

Intergenerational programs can include:

  • The young serving the old through friendly visiting programs in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, providing home services, or teaching things like computer skills or English as a second language.

  • Older adults serving the young through mentoring, staffing or volunteering in child care centers, and tutoring.

  • Older adults and the young serving together in performing/visual arts programs, family support programs, environmental preservation, and community service.

  • Older adults and the young sharing sites in intergenerational community centers, childcare centers located in senior housing, or senior centers located in schools and libraries where they can interact through informal encounters as well as scheduled activities.  A unique example of this is intergenerational housing such as a retirement home in The Netherlands that provides university students with rent-free housing in return for 30 hours a month of quality time with the older residents.

A recent review of research on intergenerational programs involving children and youth interacting with persons with dementia noted a number of positive outcomes emerging from these efforts. The children had more positive views of aging and developed skills needed to relate to persons with dementia such as patience, sensitivity, compassion, respect, and empathy.  Participation in intergenerational programs increased their self-esteem and confidence and made them more attentive to older adults.  The older adults with dementia had an increased sense of purpose and usefulness, decreased anxiety, less agitation and fewer disruptive behaviors, and more social engagement at least for the duration of the interaction, although it is not clear whether these benefits continued once the children left.

Other research cited by Generations United has found that intergenerational programs enhance socialization, stimulate learning, increase emotional support, and improve health among older adults.  For children they can improve academic performance, enhance social skills, decrease negative behavior, and increase stability.  At the community level, they can strengthen community ties, maximize human and financial resources, encourage cultural exchange, expand services, and inspire collaboration.

Benefits of Integenerational Relationships

Thanks to advances in science and medicine, people are living longer lives than ever. But while the ability to enjoy fulfillment and independence after retirement is wonderful, it also poses a challenge: How do we keep our youngest and oldest generations connected?

The answer for us at Senior Lifestyle is known as intergenerational programming, which is a fancy way of saying that we help bring seniors and kids together to form fun and meaningful relationships. Both groups have so much to teach and learn from each other that the result of these programs is always magical.

Take for example Chancellor’s Village in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This September, residents there will begin visiting with and reading to students at nearby Riverview Elementary for the third year in a row. Residents of Chancellor’s Village get a chance to spend time with students in various grades, and often the students will “adopt” their favorite seniors to hang out with only their class for the year.
intergenerational programming.

Intergenerational programs are fun for everyone involved, and they also pay positive dividends in kids’ and seniors’ lives, as well as for society as a whole.

Generations United, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of children, youth and older adults through intergenerational collaboration, public policies, and programs, has a number of benefits and statistics that underscore the importance of intergenerational programming:

45% of Americans working in retirement say they want to work with youth
Older adults learn new innovations and technologies from their younger counterparts
Older adults who regularly volunteer with children burn 20% more calories per week, experienced fewer falls, were less reliant on canes, and performed better on memory tests than their peers.
Older adults with dementia and other cognitive impairments experience more positive effects during interactions with children than they did during non-generational activities.

In schools where older adults were a regular fixture, children had more improved reading scores compared to their peers at other schools.
Interacting with older adults enables youth to develop social networks, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, positive attitudes toward aging, a sense of purpose and community service.
Youth involved in intergenerational mentoring programs are 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol, and 52% less likely to skip school.
Children and youth gain positive role models with whom they can interact on a regular basis.

Intergenerational programs bring together diverse groups and networks and help dispel innacurate and negative stereotypes.
Children, youth, and older adults are less alienated while the community recognizes that they can be contributing members of society.
Intergenerational community service programs can multiply human resources by engaging older adults and youth as volunteers in different types of opportunities and populations.
Intergenerational programs promote the transmission of cultural traditions and values from older to younger generations, helping to build a sense of personal and societal identity while encouraging tolerance.

Intergenerational is the way of the future across the country

Riverhead to convert Stotzky Park space into ‘intergenerational’ center

03/19/2017 6:00 AM


Rita Allen of Jamesport sat at a breakfast table at the Riverhead Senior Center in Aquebogue with a grin on her face. Two young men had just stopped by to ask how she was doing and a 20-year-old woman brought her a roll and butter.

“They also come around and talk, which is so nice, too,” said Allen, who is 88.

At a table nearby, 78-year-old Anna Capizzi of Calverton and her friends said hello to students who had braved a cold Monday morning to work the kitchens and spend time with them. She said the whole experience was “very nice.”

“It also makes us really feel old,” she joked, drawing laughs from her tablemates.

The get-together was an intergenerational program, a type of event specifically designed to get seniors of all ages interacting with youths in their local community. Such programs are growing in popularity.

“Intergenerational is the way of the future across the country,” said Judy Doll, head of Riverhead Town’s senior citizen department. “That’s the way things are going.”

Intergenerational programs can dispel stereotypes, enable older people to share their wisdom with young people and prevent loneliness and isolation in the elderly, according to the research and advocacy group Generations United.

Riverhead Town plans to convert a building at Stotzky Park, which most recently operated as a private day care, into a new center devoted to intergenerational services, providing space for both youths and seniors.

“The younger seniors, the new retirees, they’re active,” Doll said. “It’s a whole different scene than it used to be. Senior centers are being phased out.”

The town started similar programs in 2009 by connecting seniors with child pen pals, offering computer classes at which the school children provided assistance and more. But those programs were canceled a year later due to budget cuts.

Now, the town has revived the idea for the new building. Parks department director Ray Coyne said other towns, like Huntington, are also preparing to launch intergenerational events.

“I think now is the perfect time to do it,” he said. “We still believe in the concept.”

Top photo caption: Carla Chavez, 20, serves senior Dennis Balsamo. (Credit: Paul Squire)


The new center will focus on younger, recently retired seniors and children of middle school age. At roughly 4,200 square feet, it will include space for a game room, six classrooms and a kitchen. A town program is already connecting seniors to preschool children for reading sessions. Youth programs at the center will begin first and more activities for seniors will be offered in the spring.

“Once we have the center, we’re going to take it to another level,” Coyne said.

“It helps both ends of the spectrum,” Doll said. “There’s a lot they can both learn from each other.”

In the meantime, special needs high school students from the BOCES food preparation program visit the center every Monday to volunteer in the kitchen.

The center’s chef, Charlie Klein, who formerly operated CK’s Deli in Riverhead, has been working in the kitchen for almost a year. He said the students are assigned to different roles based on their strengths.

Their volunteer efforts gives them a chance to get on-the-job training and exposure to both making the meals and interacting with the seniors in the “front of the house.”

“You can’t get a better experience than that,” Klein said.

“The students get an opportunity to practice the skills they learn in class,” added Joy Graf of BOCES. “This is just perfect. Everybody wins here.”

Caregiver Stress and Burnout

Tips for Regaining Your Energy, Optimism, and Hope

Caregiver handsThe demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or you’re in over your head. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to burnout.

When you’re burned out, it’s tough to do anything, let alone look after someone else. That’s why taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity. Read on for tips on how to rein in the stress in your life and regain balance, joy, and hope.

What you can do:

  1. Connect face to face with the person you are caring for
  2. Get out of the house and walk in the sunlight
  3. Reach out and stay connected to people who support you
  4. Learn about the mood-boosting benefits of omega-3 fats
  5. Join a caregiver support group to share your experiences
  6. Get the amount of restful sleep that you need to feel your best

Elderly care centre launched at upgraded Whampoa CC

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SINGAPORE — A first-of-its-kind centre promises to help transform how seniors can be cared for within a residential community.

Elderly residents in Whampoa, who form about a fifth of the estate’s population, can now access a raft of healthcare, social care and community services at the pilot Community of Successful Ageing centre, which opened its doors this month.

The centre, a partnership between the Health Ministry, Tsao Foundation and Whampoa’s grassroots organisations, features a clinic, day care centre and services that help the elderly and their caregivers manage chronic health conditions and emotional needs.

Speaking yesterday at the official re-opening of Whampoa Community Club (CC), where the centre is located, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong cited the neighbourhood as an example of how an ageing population can be supported by a “community of care”.

The Community for Successful Ageing centre marks an expansion of the Tsao Foundation’s programmes in Whampoa, which it began in 2012 from a makeshift clinic at one of the Residents’ Committee centres.

Tsao Foundation chief executive Peh Kim Choo said the new premises will allow it to organise community programmes, such as art classes and volunteering initiatives, that give the elderly more opportunities to interact with residents of different age groups.

For instance, it hopes to set up intergenerational programmes with the childcare centre in the CC.

Noting the constraints on Singapore’s healthcare workforce in meeting the demands of an ageing population, Mr Gan said the National Healthcare Group will work with the Tsao Foundation to jointly care for frail elderly patients.

“More Whampoa residents can transit better from hospitals back home, and be supported to recuperate and stay well in the community. Seniors can visit the primary care clinic for their healthcare needs whilst receiving referrals from case managers for psychosocial support or other services around Whampoa,” he said.

“Those who are frailer can also come to the day care centre or have care staff from the centre visit their homes to care for them.”

About one in five residents are at least 60 years old, while a quarter are above the age of 50, and a resident’s feedback on the need for an elder-care facility sparked the idea for the centre.

Whampoa grassroots adviser Heng Chee How said: “People have lived here for decades really, and we see that, physically, they may not be as strong as before; medically, they need further advice; socially, they’re also looking at different ways to stay connected with friends.

“With the opportunity to do up the Community Club again, we began to think about what would be useful for the residents.”

Mdm June Lee, who was referred to the Tsao Foundation after seeking treatment for hot water burns at Toa Payoh Polyclinic and Hua Mei Clinic, now drops by the centre in Whampoa CC on weekdays for singing, drawing and other arts and crafts sessions.

The wheelchair user said this has helped reduce the stress on her husband, who used to care for her while having to work.

Whampoa, one of the first four sites in the City for All Ages movement launched in 2012 to seek urban solutions for the elderly, had also undergone infrastructural improvements earlier to help seniors to move around.

The other three neighbourhoods are Bedok, Marine Parade and Taman Jurong.

The Top Caregiving of the Elderly Challenges


  • Time management: Caregiving takes time. As a result, caregivers have less time for other family members and themselves. In a recent study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more than half of caregivers reported that their duties have caused them to sacrifice vacations, hobbies or other activities.
  • Competing demands: Balancing caregiving responsibilities with the demands of a job can be difficult. Tasks — such as calling doctors, checking in with social workers, arranging services and scheduling appointments — entail daytime hours. That’s why the majority of caregivers say they need workplace accommodations such as going in late, leaving work early or taking time off. Click here (link to: CRC BASICS balance work care) for more on balancing work and caregiving.
  • Financial implications: The costs linked to caregiving add up. A study by the National Alliance for Caregiving found that the out-of-pocket cost for caregivers is roughly $5,500 per year. That includes food, travel, transportation, medical insurance co-pays and medications. Long-distance caregivers had even higher estimated expenses, at about $8,700 per year.
  • Physical and mental stress: For those providing intense care for long periods, the physical and mental tolls can be heavy. Although most caregivers don’t attribute health problems to caregiving, some say they feel frustrated, exhausted, angry or sad.