"Somehow, we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, acquire knowledge of the past, and provide a sense of the future.”
To solve the issues that face our nation, communities must design programs and policies that involve sharing individuals’ gifts, talents, knowledge, and skills across the generations.
Few communities have put these programs and policies in place, and programs that are in place most often center around youth. Our society provides few defined roles for older people. To make intergenerational efforts effective, you might need to take the lead in defining your role and in engaging other generations.
The possibilities are endless, and if we are creative about applying the wisdom of older adults to engage people from across generations, we will find great potential for doing serious work that makes a difference. As an engaged individual, you could become a tutor or mentor, host an intergenerational discussion group, or participate in a community theater group that crosses generations. Grandparenting—for your own grandkids or someone else’s—is a great way to build connections between generations.
The Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song™ program, offered through Community Celebration of Place, is a great example of a fun and informative intergenerational program. Created by Larry Long who is a Smithsonian Folkways recording artist and an advocate for social justice, the program brings together children and elders of different backgrounds—economic, faith, racial, and cultural—to honor and celebrate commonalties and differences through story and song.
The following resources could be helpful if you are interested in developing a program for intergenerational connections:
- Intergenerational Programs and Aging at Penn State University provides resources for organizations interested in establishing intergenerational programs.
- Intergenerational Activities, a program of the United States Environmental Protection Agency offers information about intergenerational efforts focused on environmental protection.
Page Author: Jan Hively
This section includes the following pages:
- A Generational Look at Disability - Her adaptability has often made them wonder how people, whether young or old, adjust to living with a disability.
- Connecting Generations through Story - Stories have tremendous power to shape our lives. Joy Gordon, a 2009 ALVA Grad, fashioned her leadership project around finding a way to create environments that invite our elders to tell their stories.
- Organizations & Programs for Intergenerational Learning - Young people and older adults are not problems to solve; they are resources to tap. Projects that bring generations together can address critical social problems and ensure the transmission of culture across generations.
- Grandparenting - Being a grandparent allows you the opportunity to share your experiences and love with a younger person. Supportive programs are expanding for grandparenting to counter weakened ties over the past 50 years within families and between individuals and communities.
- Genealogy - For many families, intergenerational connections become real through understanding of family history. We provide links that will help you piece together the family puzzle.
Check our Additional Resources for more information