Intergenerational programs: It takes a village to age optimally

The Bottom Line

  • Intergenerational programs can have a positive impact on everyone involved.
  • They have the potential to improve the well-being of older adults, reduce stigma associated with aging and discrimination against older adults, while also supporting youth development.
  • Guides are available to support individuals and groups wishing to develop intergenerational programs.

People often mention the need to develop more intergenerational programs. Employers increasingly promote intergenerational collaborative work to use the skills of older employees and to transfer the tricks of the trade to new, junior employees.(1) Schools and recreational centers set up programs where children visits nursing homes to do some arts and crafts. Universities promote cohabitation programs to connect students looking for low-cost housing with older adults who have a free room and can benefit from support and companionship.(2) But what do we know about the effectiveness of intergenerational programs?

What the research tells us

Many intergenerational programs are supported by research evidence. A recent systematic review highlighted the benefits of intergenerational interventions, whether face-to-face, virtual or combined, in different settings and contexts: schools, health and social services centers, day centers, or private residences. (3)

Findings from this systematic review indicate that intergenerational programs are appropriate and effective for older adults, including people with dementia. They have the potential to nurture a sense of being useful to society (such as the feeling that older people are able to guide and positively influence future generations), to improve the well-being of older adults, but also to reduce the stigma associated with aging and discrimination against older adults. In addition, by enabling older adults to mentor or tutor children and youth, intergenerational interventions have the potential to improve students' academic, behavioral, social-emotional and motivational outcomes.

Intergenerational programs seem to benefit young people, older adults, and society as a whole. Some programs may be time limited and informal (for example, teaching children how to grow vegetables in a community garden, reading to children at the municipal library, or allowing young people to provide computer support to older adults), while others may require formal partnerships (for example, relocating a daycare centre or a primary-school class to a nursing home, or implementing an intergenerational mentoring program in a school). Guides are available to support individuals and organizations who wish to set up intergenerational programs.(4; 5) Let's take advantage of them to learn how to build strong communities with strong intergenerational bonds!

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Author Details


  1. Burmeister A, Deller J.  Knowledge retention from older and retiring workers: What do we know, and where do we go from here?  Work, Aging and Retirement. 2016; 2(2): 87-104.
  2. McMaster University. Symbiosis: Grad students and seniors co-housing program. Hamilton: Canada. 2018.
  3. Canedo-García A, García-Sánchez JN, Pacheco-Sanz DI. A systematic review of the effectiveness of intergenerational programs. Frontiers in Psychology. 2017;8(1882).
  4.  BC Care Providers Association. Creating caring communities: A guide to establishing intergenerational programs for schools, care facilities and community groups. Vancouver: Canada, 2009.
  5. City of Edmonton. Intergenerational programming toolkit. Edmonton: Canada. 2018.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.