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The Importance of Intergenerational Programming for Youth, Older Adults, and Community

The Importance of Intergenerational Programming for Youth, Older Adults, and Community

Reflections & Leadership  |  Health & Aging

WEST-BRANCH-SCHOOL-CHILDRENDo you consider yourself young or young at heart? If you're over the age of 70 and feel your best years are behind you, we may have the answer to that one recurring question you keep finding yourself asking: "What can I do to feel young again?" What if we told you there was a way to regain the youth of years past? Would you believe us? 

What is Intergenerational Programming?

The bridging of the gap between Generation Z (born between the mid to late '90s and present day) and The Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945) may very well be the answer to regaining your youth and restoring vitality. Intergenerational programs afford younger and older generations the opportunity to interact and engage in ways that are beneficial on multiple levels. These programs connect people of varying ages through ongoing activities designed to teach, stimulate, and foster purposeful living. Programs consists of predefined goals, such as eliminating stereotypes and cultural barriers to improving the emotional, social, intellectual, and physical well-being of youth and older adults. 

The benefits for seniors and youth are immeasurable. From increased socialization to stimulated learning to improved health outcomes, integrating meaningful activities empowers youth and older adults to become leaders and active members of the community in which they live.

WEST-BRANCH-SCHOOL-CHILDREN-2Why Intergenerational Approaches?

Volunteer Opportunities. Intergenerational programming paves the way for an array of volunteer opportunities. It's a great way to fill downtime; but more so, it's even better when the time spent is substantial and worthwhile for all involved. Through intergenerational programming, older adults gain a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction from giving back, while youth reap the benefits of having a committed, caring, and reliable mentor in their lives.

Companionship. Whether you consider yourself young or young at heart, friendships can be formed between any age. In fact, youth make great companions for older adults. The spirit and high-energy young people bring to a relationship can be invigorating. Research shows older adults, who actively engage with youth, often find themselves reimagining their younger selves. When you think young and act young, you feel young. Surrounding yourself with people younger than you does wonders for your emotional and physical state of mind.

Breaking Down Stereotypes. Intergenerational programming helps to eliminate stereotypes. Through interaction and positive relationship building, intergenerational programming can be used as a means to unite two generations that are on complete opposite ends of the cultural spectrum. These programs teach audiences, of both ages, positive communication skills, new ways of thinking, and helps to dispels myths about generational differences.

Community Awareness. Intergenerational programming is beneficial for the community. Enhanced awareness, appreciation for organizations that cater to the needs of older adults, collaboration of community, and support for youth programs are all fostered through intergenerational-based approaches.   

Health Benefits. Older adults, who participate in intergenerational programs, tend to have a higher sense of self-worth. Furthermore, engaging with youth helps distract from the physical ailments of older age—helping older adults to successfully age in place. Those who participate in intergenerational programs—particularly people who suffer from arthritis, osteoporosis, or other mobility impairments—show improved physical and mental functioning. Intergenerational approaches have also been linked to positive behaviors in adults with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, increasing creative expression, verbal communication, and memory recall due to growing, playful interactions with youth.

Real-World Applications

WEST-BRANCH-SCHOOL-CHILDREN-3The Presbyterian Home at Williamsport, a Presbyterian Senior Living community located in Williamsport, PA, uses an intergenerational-based approach in its program delivery to seniors. Intergenerational-based activities help to offset the harmful affects of isolation, which many older adults face. Recently, the community welcomed students from the West Branch Elementary School to participate in an intergenerational reading program on its campus. Renee Engle, Administrator at Presbyterian Home at Williamsport says, "Our program helps children with their reading skills and provides companionship and purpose for residents." Engle understands the importance of the program and witnesses, firsthand, the joy on the residents' faces when the children come to visit "They are wonderful readers," says resident Marie Martin. "I like to hear them read," says resident Anita Waltz.

The children of West Branch Elementary and the residents of Presbyterian Home at Williamsport also do community service projects—sending care packages and cards to military service men and women. Through the program, the children of West Branch Elementary are learning about the sacrifice the men and women of our military are making and it gives the residents an opportunity to pay homage to their fellow brothers and sisters in stripes. The Presbyterian Home at Williamsport's intergenerational program does a good job in bringing together two generations for one common cause.

Cultural anthropologist and author, Margaret Mead once said, "Somehow, we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, a knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future." This is why intergenerational programming is so important. It empowers the generations to become active and involved leaders within their communities. And as an added plus, resident Mary Guthrie says, "It makes me feel young!"


Learn More About The Presbyterian Home at Williamsport and How We Are Empowering Older Adults to Stay Active and Engaged Within Their Communities

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About Presbyterian Senior Living

PSL is a mission-driven organization that lives our values of integrity, mutual respect, creative curiosity, and connectedness. Building on a legacy of 96 years, we provide residential and care services to more than 6,000 seniors in 27 locations across the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.