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The Impact of Intergenerational Programming

By Ashlee Williman | 06/11/2019

Intergenerational programs provide opportunities to bridge generations through interactive activities and shared experiences. The impact and benefits of intergenerational programming can be measured on many levels. Whether you’re an older adult interested in participating in these activities or an organizer interested in planning them, here are just a few real world examples from the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging’s Rose Centers for Aging Well of how intergenerational activities have benefited various generations of participants:

1.    Encouraging one another

During a recent intergenerational visit at one of the Rose Centers, a group of first and second grade students brought their favorite books to read to the center participants. Each student paired up with an older adult, and immediately began reading. The teacher commented that several students in the class typically do not enjoy reading for a long period of time, but through the encouragement and support from the older adults, they continued to read for over 30 minutes together. This is just one example of the ways in which intergenerational programming can help provide encouragement to both older and younger generations.

2.    Building relationships

Through regular intergenerational programming, friendships are often formed between older adults and younger students. On one occasion, a Rose Center participant, Rosie, became very close with a third grade student, Jackson. Week after week, the bond grew stronger. You could always find them sitting next to one another during a class activity, enjoying lunch together, or exchanging handmade cards with positive and encouraging words for one another. During this time, Rosie was grieving the recent loss of her husband. Rose Center staff stopped by Rosie’s house to pay their respects, and as they entered, they saw photos of her together with Jackson proudly displayed front and center on her mantel. This newfound friendship with Jackson brought joy and comfort to Rosie during those difficult times. 

3.    Sharing experiences

Intergenerational programming often leads to regular discussions and activities that allow generations to share their personal experiences with one another. A recent poetry exercise at one of the Rose Centers challenged the students and older adults to describe their childhood. This exercise provided a platform for them to discuss the challenges, lessons, heartbreaks, love, sorrow, obstacles and joy they had experienced in the past. While there was an obvious age gap between the two groups, there were many similarities and common themes in their stories. Some connected on hardships they had faced, while others shared cheerful memories. These programs often provide opportunities for both older and younger generations to connect on many levels, and grow a deeper understanding of one another.