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Leaves Shadow
  • Ajita Krishnan

Creating Connections - Fostering an Intergenerational Community

For millenia, families of many generations lived in close contact, often under one roof. It created a natural support system across the generations. Beyond this, people on a daily basis bridged the generational gap and lived sharing diverse experiences and perspectives.

As people have become increasingly mobile, spreading their wings and choosing to follow opportunities away from their childhood homes, such set-ups are quickly becoming a thing of the past. We are building a society in which younger generations are missing the support and wisdom imparted by senior members of the community, while older adults are increasingly isolated . All generations are seeing the rough side of their pursuit of self-reliance and independence.

The good news is that programs for intergenerational outreach are popping up all over the world. With a little effort we can recreate some of the connections that previous generations enjoyed. In this blog we will spotlight some successful intergenerational programs, and provide some ideas for creating such programs in our own communities.

Examples of successful intergenerational programs.

There are numerous examples of successful intergenerational programs worldwide. One such initiative is the Foster Grandparent Program created by Americorps. This program encourages seniors to volunteer as mentors and tutors for at-risk youth, providing both emotional support and guidance to improve academic performance. A similar organization is The AARP Experience Corps, which empowers people over 50 to serve as tutors to help students become better readers by the end of third grade.

In Milwaukee, the St. Ann's Intergenerational Care Center combines senior care and early childhood education under one roof. This innovative approach provides daily opportunities for interaction and bonding between seniors and children, leading to significant benefits for both age groups.

Closer to home, the Sharing Time with Elders program in Washington state inspires people to bridge the generations through powerful conversations designed to change the social norm of aging and to understand the value of every person at any age.

SilverKite Community Arts™, also based in Washington, specializes in designing and facilitating research-based site specific intergenerational arts programs. They partner with schools, senior living communities, arts organizations, faith communities, libraries, parks and recreation departments, and other organizations.``

Opportunities for creating an intergenerational experience.

It is recommended to start with an nitiative that focuses on a specific project or area of interest that naturally fosters interest across generations. In this way it is easier to communicate the vision for the project and get things started. Here are some examples.

  1. A tutoring service where seniors tutor youth or youth tutor seniors.

  2. An opportunity for local seniors to share experiences from the community to school children, and for the children to create their own stories about what the community means to them.

  3. A service based club, where children and young adults partner to help older adults with errands and small projects. Eastside Friends of Seniors will be happy to assist with such an endeavor.

  4. A private intergenerational experience intentionally bringing the older and younger generations in the family together in unique ways.

For more details, ideas, and helpful guidelines, Generations United publishes a free To olkit for Intergenerational Program Planners, that also includes a searchable program database for more ideas and inspiration.


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