Intergenerational Programs Help Keep Seniors and Young People Connected

At Franke Tobey Jones, for many years’ residents serve as tutors in local elementary schools. This month ten residents from throughout the campus will join forces to tutor first and second graders at DeLong Elementary. These residents will help students advance their reading and comprehension skills once a week for the rest of the academic year.

Also, once a month, we host an intergenerational event with a local Montessori pre-school class. About a dozen children spend time with Franke Tobey Jones residents. Each month they do a project together like color, make a craft, etc., and then they share cookies and juice. It is so fun for both our residents and the children!

It used to be more common that multiple generations would share the same household. Grandparents would see their grandchildren every day and often shared in the responsibility of raising them. Now, many families experience more of a separation in their everyday living arrangements between generations. This separation could be due to living in different cities, living in larger homes where everyone has their own space, or the trend towards more seniors moving to senior living communities. These days, it’s rare to find grandparents and their grandchildren residing under one roof.

Intergenerational programs help bring seniors and children together to form fun and meaningful relationships and offer an opportunity to bridge the generation gap with numerous benefits for both generations.

According to Generations United:

  • 45% of Americans working in retirement say they want to work with youth
  • Adults who regularly volunteer with children burn 20% more calories per week, experience fewer falls, are less reliant on canes and perform better on memory tests than their peers.
  • Older adults learn new innovations and technologies from their younger counterparts.

For seniors, spending time with children and the joy they bring is often the highlight of their day. The elderly are natural nurturers while children bring a lot of positive energy to any room they enter, and seniors are thriving off of that energy.

When children are with older adults:

  • They are reinforced with appropriate manners, patience, tolerance, and encouraged to explore their curiosity while learning empathy and important social skills.
  • They learn how to interact with people who are much older and may need extra assistance or a gentler approach.
  • Children also develop a sense of pride and leadership even as they receive unconditional love and acceptance from seniors.
  • Furthermore, in schools where older adults were a regular fixture, children had more improved reading scores compared to their peers at other schools.

It seems interacting with older adults enables youth to develop social networks, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, positive attitudes toward aging, a sense of purpose and community service.

Even better news, research shows that youth involved in intergenerational mentoring programs are:

  • 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
  • 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
  • 52% less likely to skip school.

By sharing time together, seniors are helping children learn and grow while the children help stimulate seniors both mentally and physically.

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