How Intergenerational Activities Help Society

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The old and the young are two groups with much in common. They may have time on their hands, they are at times under-appreciated, and they have a lot to offer each other.

What is now called intergenerational activities used to be a common part of the culture. As families have moved farther apart, the young and the old hardly know one another. They exist in very separate spheres of life. 

Benefits for Older Adults from Intergenerational Activities

  • Reinforces cooperation and sense of community for both young and old.
  • Teaches oral history while letting seniors contribute to the future.
  • Motivates youth to take charge of their life.
  • Exposes young folks to the values and wisdom, and even human frailties of their elders.

In sum, communication across generations encourages cultural exchange and collaboration, expands services, maximizes financial and human resources while stimulating socialization and emotional health of each age group.

Intergenerational Programs Across America

  • Miami Dade Public Schools
  • Habitat Intergenerational Program
  • Universities: Cornell, Temple, Penn State, British Columbia
  • Mentoring by retirees in public and private schools for both academics and the arts
  • Adult or youth service organizations, park and recreation centers, faith-based organizations, retirement communities, and senior centers
  • Hawaii Intergenerational Network
  • Generations United in Maryland, Massachusetts and Florida
  • New York City's West End Intergenerational Residence since 1989 caters to three generations

There is even a Journal of Intergenerational Relationships. Project Shine is a national service learning program which supports college students in building relationships with elderly immigrants and refugees through language, literacy, and citizenship tutoring. It is involved with 18 colleges around the United States.

Even though there are a number of formal arrangements, across the world intergenerational activities occur informally in churches, families, and communities. However, specific programs keep the vital need before the public eye while assuring increased quantity of relationships across the age spectrum.

Benefits of Cross-Generational Interactions

There are many benefits of cross-generation experiences and a number of programs are already active across the country. 

Since the over-65 population is on its way to doubling in the next few years, it seems wise for seniors to participate in intergenerational activities. It could involve mentoring a child on a computer in a public or private school, cooking with a grandkid or neighbor child, or tutoring a math student about money.

These intergenerational relationships can go both directions. Both the younger and older generations have much to offer each other. Spending time with young people can lift some of the weightiness of growing older. Such moments of shared joy go a long way toward making the days better for both generations involved.

When a young person provides companionship or services to a senior, not only is the senior's day brightened and their load lifted, the youth's world has widened. Papa does just that by pairing up people from the two age groups, providing help for the seniors and delight for all.

Seniors enjoy the attention and assistance they need while the college students gain special experiences of having a grandparent for a day.  

Some service providers may even find wisdom which would be hard to find in a book. And of course, they all get extra doses of love and kindness.