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Intergenerational programs offer benefits for both younger and older generations

Martins T, Midão L, Veiga SM, Dequech L, Busse G, Bertram M, et al.  Intergenerational programs review: Study design and characteristics of intervention, outcomes, and effectiveness  Journal of Intergenerational Relationships. 2019 , 17:93-109

Review question

      What are the designs, objectives and outcomes of intergenerational programs which allow for exchange and learning among older and younger generations?

Background

      There has been an increase in reported cases of elderly people suffering from isolation and loneliness.

      Supporting the development of intergenerational programs is an opportunity to increase communication between generations and improve the quality of life of older adults. However, what is considered an ‘intergenerational program’ and the potential benefits of these programs have not been fully explored.

      By reviewing the designs, objectives and outcomes of intergenerational programs, practitioners and researchers may be better supported in implementing future intergenerational programs.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published between 2008 and 2016 was conducted. Studies that focused on intergenerational interventions involving older adults (50 years-old and older) and younger people (30 years-old and less) with experimental or case study designs.

      A total of 3,796 studies were identified in searches, and 16 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

      Information about the study design, intervention characteristics, outcomes, and effectiveness of these interventions were included in the review.

      This review was funded by European Union under the European Commission’s Erasmus+ Programme Key Action2 Strategic Partnerships, and from the European Union and National Funds under the Partnership Agreement PT2020.

What the researchers found

      The review identified a wide range of intergenerational programs, including educational programs (for example, children and older adults reading together), arts and crafts (for example, creating hand puppets, writing scripts, and music sessions), information technology development (for example, older adults and children undertaking activities in computer labs at primary schools or exchanging emails), cultural heritage (for example, workshops where older adult storytellers shared personal life stories), health education (for example, intergenerational obesity prevention activities), and therapeutic activities (for example, activities to learn how to listen empathetically).

      The review revealed considerable variability in the study designs, intervention content, and outcomes measured.

      The review found that the length of contact between the generations contributed to success, regardless of the activities performed in the program. A longer follow-up with regular visits allowed participants to get to know each other and bond.

      All of the programs examined in this review had positive results. The younger participants showed greater self-esteem, improved academic performance, had higher motivation to learn, enhanced their social skills, and had more positive attitudes toward themselves and older adults. Older adults similarly showed improvements in their self-esteem, cognitive function and productivity, greater satisfaction with life, and additionally had improved outcomes in their mental and physical health.

Conclusion

      This review found a large variety of study designs, program designs, and effectiveness evaluations. More evidence is needed to support the development of intergenerational programs.




Glossary

Cognitive function
Mental processes, including thinking, learning and remembering.

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