Study Shows Power of Intergenerational Programming
A high school student accompanying a centenarian on a ballroom dance. A group of Girl Scouts proudly reciting their pledge to a roomful of beaming seniors. A student in Brazil speaking English for one of the first times in his life to a senior in the United States via webcam.
Events and activities that bring young people together with seniors are often emotionally touching. Just as importantly, though, they can actually provide tangible health benefits for everyone involved.
“Intergenerational activities can be instrumental in improving the mental, physical, and spiritual health of older people,” says Rita Altman, Sunrise Senior Living’s senior vice president of Memory Care & Program Services. “And younger people have plenty to gain as well!”
“Ninety-two percent of Americans believe intergenerational activities can help reduce loneliness across all ages,” says the study. “A strong majority of Americans (94 percent) agree that older people have skills or talents that can help address a child’s/youth’s needs, and 89 percent believe the same about children and youth addressing the needs of elders.”
Unfortunately, intergenerational bonding can be difficult to facilitate. According to the study, just over a quarter of Americans are aware of nearby places that regularly bring youth and seniors together.
The report recommends an increase in shared spaces in schools, senior living communities, and more for older people and younger people to engage together.
“Shared sites in every community should not be a dream but rather a real-world, everyday option that will create greater understanding between generations as the U.S. population grows more diversified in age, race and ethnicity,” it says.
Intergenerational activities are already an important part of life at Sunrise communities. Through Live With Legacy programming, Sunrise residents have regular opportunities to share meaningful connections with younger generations. These can include baking cookies, watching a school play, learning how to paint with watercolors, and much more.
For instance, Sunrise of Chandler recently held a “senior prom” event, where local high school students came to the community for a dance with seniors.
“It was so special, and I haven’t been the same since that night,” said Faye, the resident who was crowned prom queen. “What a wonderful night!” remarked Denny, the prom king.
When a senior engages with a young person, they form an entirely new relationship. They get to know a young person’s personality, see a fresh perspective, and use their own experiences to tell stories and bond. The interaction can teach the young person, meanwhile, countless life lessons while breaking down unhealthy stereotypes about aging.
Programs with younger people also often involve exercise and movement, which can help seniors burn calories and improve balance. And, intergenerational programming can strengthen the spirit and combat loneliness for seniors, while helping young people’s minds develop in a healthy way.
“Developing connections with a younger generation can help seniors feel a greater sense of fulfillment,” says Altman. “For young people, these connections develop increased self-esteem and confidence, as well as better emotional and social skills.”
Seniors of any age and cognitive capacity can benefit from interacting with younger people. An especially exciting part of intergenerational activities is that it can actually help promote healthy minds and spirits for people living with dementia!
“In addition to increasing levels of engagement, research shows that when people with Alzheimer’s or other form of memory loss participate in intergenerational activities, they actually perform better on memory tests!” says Altman. “It’s yet another example of how powerful the results can be from simply giving people of all ages the opportunity to laugh, learn, and talk with each other.”
Live With Purpose at Sunrise
Live With Legacy is one of eight signature Live With Purpose activity programs at Sunrise communities. These enable our residents to enjoy, express, learn, and grow while fostering a greater sense of community and meaning. Call a Sunrise community near you to set up a time to visit and learn more!