What is it? Intergenerational programs connect people of different age groups. Some of these groups, particularly youth and the elderly, are often less engaged with each other and sometimes experience prejudice and stereotyping. These populations may also be less involved in local groups, organizations and governance. Programs that focus on bringing together younger (often teens) and older residents of a place (seniors), can begin to confront prejudices, build cross-generational understanding, and often identify public issues and concerns important to these segments. Often, structured cross-generational programs may engage underrepresented populations in public decision-making, thus empowering these subsets of the population and making them feel more connected and confident. The community as a whole is improved by having access to these groups’ often underutilized skill sets.
How has it been used? The Beth Johnson Foundation in the United Kingdom worked with the Newcastle Coalfields Intergenerational Community Development Project to conduct an intergenerational community action program. Groups of students from local schools were recruited and paired with groups of seniors from the area. The project conducted 15 sessions in which participants discussed the ways they are perceived in the community, and the ways they feel about the places where they live. Project members worked together in groups to rank issues and problems in the community. Once the most pressing problems had been determined, the students and seniors then discussed and ranked potential solutions to these problems. The most promising solutions were then more fully developed in partnership with area institutions. The groups then presented these solutions to the community. Participants, and community organization partners, used the momentum from this experience to help create a nature reserve, start new programs for youth, clean up graveyards, and improve existing parks. (Source: Intergenerational Community Development – Beth Johnson Foundation)