The Value of Intergenerational Programs

Social connections between elders and youth are no longer a natural occurrence in today's North American society. Most of us have little natural opportunity to live in a close-knit community where wisdom is shared between generations. In both our families and neighbourhoods, we need to redefine the roles and responsibilities of people at each stage of life and create ways to strengthen ties in our communities.

Community Need: A Societal Shift Toward Increased Segregation of Generations

As the aging population continues to rise in the next decade, age segregation and isolation are expected to increase. Young people may experience reduced interaction with seniors for a variety of reasons, such as dispersed extended families, homogeneous neighbourhoods, and rising segregation as aging adults choose to reside more often in retirement residences and lodges. 

Age segregation is unhealthy and lowers social and emotional quality of life for both younger and older generations. The impact of intergenerational isolation includes a decrease in life satisfaction among older persons and an increase in negative stereotypes toward those persons among younger people. Research consistently shows young people grow up healthier when they have relationships with adults outside their family context who provide extra attention, guidance and support. Similarly, research shows older people interacting with children and youth feel connected, valued and invested in the future.

LINKages’ Solution: Intergenerational Programming & Activities

LINKages develops, delivers and promotes intergenerational programs & activities to counteract the increasing trend towards generational isolation and segregation. Our approach emphasize purposeful connections, mutually-beneficial activities and exchanges of knowledge - all critical to the development of impactful intergenerational interactions. 

A 2005 literature review conducted by the University of Calgary[1] concluded, "Intergenerational programs can contribute to the well-being of individuals and communities, for example, by facilitating mutually beneficial relationships; volunteering and community building; increasing social cohesion; integration and collaboration; and strengthening family relationships."  The report also details a number of outcomes of intergenerational programs:

Youth outcomes:

  • Increased self-esteem & well being
  • Increased school-based learning and school attendance
  • Greater understanding and tolerance of older persons
  • Reduced negative stereotypes and attitudes toward older person
  • More positive attitudes toward the elderly, the future and community service
  • Reduced isolation, troublesome behaviour and inclination to use drugs

Elders outcomes

  • Raised awareness of skills and abilities
  • Raised self-esteem
  • Greater understanding and tolerance of younger persons
  • Reduced negative stereotypes and attitudes toward younger persons
  • Contributing factor to improved health and well-being of older persons
[1] Ayala, J. PhD & Dr. J. Hewson. Intergenerational Programs in Calgary: Literature Review and Environmental Scan (2005). University of Calgary, Faculty of Social Work. Calgary.