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Participants’ disabilities, their literacy levels, and the membership of participating organizations can influence the effectiveness of intergenerational programs

Canedo-Garcia A, Garcia-Sanchez J & Pacheco-Sanz D.  A systematic review of the effectiveness of intergenerational programs  Frontiers in Psychology. 2017;8(1882).

Review question

      What factors influence the effectiveness of empirically-based interventions within intergenerational programs?

Background

      Intergenerational programs are interventions implemented to encourage cooperation, interaction and exchange between two or more generations. Such programs can be used to improve life satisfaction and quality of life for all individuals.

      Intergenerational programs related to education, aging and mental health exist.

      Current intergenerational programs appear to neglect the potential of recent technological advances.

      This systematic review aims to summarize the evidence related to factors influencing the effectiveness of intergenerational programs.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted to identify studies published between 2004 and 2015. Studies that focused on intergenerational programs, their effectiveness, and their evaluation were included in the review.

      A total of 553 studies were identified in searches, and 50 were included in the systematic review after assessments for eligibility.

      This review was funded by the European Social Fund, within the Operational Program of the European Regional Development Fund and BIOGES Starters.

What the researchers found

      Intergenerational programs with a greater number of empirically-based interventions have the greatest level of effectiveness regardless of the types of interventions being used.

      Other factors influencing the effectiveness of intergenerational programs include the participants’ disabilities, the literacy levels of participants (in other words, their ability to read and write), and the membership of an organization taking part in intergenerational programs.

Conclusion

      In summary upon review and comparison of various determinants of intergenerational programs, the incorporation of evidence-based, efficient programs, both virtually and face-to-face, to meet the needs of the user to eliminate differences between generations and prevent barriers to communication is recommended. The attainable goal of such interventions is to reduce stereotypes associated with generations, prevent social isolation of the elderly, improve the empathy of youth towards the elderly and foster further relationships between age groups. Benefits of intergenerational programs were found to be particularly relevant to older adults with dementia.

      Limitations to the studied included in the review are a lack of follow-up, small sample sizes and limited inclusion of applied theoretical perspective.




Glossary

Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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