Two generations living very different lives.
One generation still watches the evening news and reads the newspaper. They visit the library. This generation mostly uses phones to call people voice-to-voice.
The other generation gets news from friends, social media, and online. And they can do almost anything on their phones. On-line influencers provide them with advice on everything from purchases to wellness. They text instead of call.
The generation gap has been widening for decades, at ever increasing rates. So, how can we bridge it?
Intergenerational programming is a great way to connect individuals across generations. A fantastic opportunity to share, learn, and engage with each other, this type of program encourages kids and older adults to share quality time through fun, hands-on activities.
After all, when generations meet and explore together, it creates opportunities for discovery, learning, and mutual gain. The emphasis is on creating positive connections and building upon each other’s strengths.
How Intergenerational Programs Bridge the Generation Gap
Intergenerational programs and activities bridge the generation gap by breaking down barriers between people of varying ages. They also help address concerns like social isolation, ageism, and misunderstanding.
Additionally, these programs seem to benefit young people, older adults, and society as a whole. In fact, linking older adults with youth can provide advantages for both groups. A systematic review highlighted the benefits of intergenerational programs, whether face-to-face, virtual, or combined. The review found that such relationships can:
- Provide an opportunity for both to learn new skills
- Give the child and the older adult a sense of purpose
- Help to alleviate fears youth may have of the elderly
- Increase self-esteem for both youth and seniors
- Encourage kids to understand and see ageing as a normal part of life
- Invigorate and energize older adults
- Help reduce the likelihood of isolation or depression in the elderly
- Help keep family stories and history alive
- Aide in cognitive stimulation
By empowering older adults to mentor or tutor children and youth, intergenerational interactions have the potential to improve students‘ academic, behavioral, and emotional experiences.
What Are Some Examples of Intergenerational Programs for Aging Adults?
These organized gatherings where older adults and youth come together to share time and experiences are a staple in ASC retirement, assisted living, and memory care residences around the country.
While some programs are time limited and informal (for example, planting a garden together or reading aloud to one another), others are more formal partnerships with local schools.
Activities that Initiate, Build, and Strengthen Intergenerational Relationships
- Storytelling. Swapping stories is a great activity that can help build a connection. Shaftesbury High School students come to senior residences Winnipeg to do some painting, bingo, and storytelling with residents. They particularly enjoy exchanging stories about technology in today’s generation vs. during the seniors’ lives.
- Making music together. Everybody loves music! It’s a fun way to socialize and build ties between generations. All Seniors Care residences like Summit Heights senior living Hamilton host sing-a-longs with local schools.
- Learning skills. Both generations can learn a great deal from one another: seniors carry wisdom and life experience, while kids and young adults understand aspects of today’s culture like social media.
- Reading to each other.
- Establishing phone or pen pals. This activity connects older community members with children. By developing relationships with local schools, senior living communities in Gatineau exchange letters in which older adult residents answer questions from youth.
- Talking about ethnic heritage. Share ethnic customs, discuss the meaning of a name in native language, or relate special stories passed down about culture.
- Planting seeds or gardening. A container gardens or raised beds provide a fun and enriching learning environment for all who participate.
- Creating art or another hobby
- Having a youth teach a senior a new technology
Intergenerational Programs Build Stronger Communities
The more generations interact and speak, the better they understand each other’s perspectives. Every day at All Seniors Care Living Centres is different. Making intergenerational programs are just one way we improve the ageing experience at our retirement residences.
If you’re looking into a senior living community for yourself or your loved one that offers intergenerational activities for seniors and youth, be sure to visit and ask about frequency and duration of the programs. Click here to volunteer to participate in one of our intergenerational activities or register your school for an intergenerational program with our residents.
Guides are available to support individuals and organizations who wish to set up intergenerational programs.
Writer – Julianna McLeod
Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.