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 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:
BENEFITS FOR OLDER ADULTS
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.
BENEFITS FOR CHILDREN
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.
BENEFITS FOR THE COMMUNITY
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.