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!