Intergenerational programming benefits the older adults who participate—and also benefits the youth participants and the community at large. The first intergenerational program of significance, the Foster Grandparent Program, was created in 1963 in response to social concerns surrounding poverty. The organization paired lower-income older adults (ages 60 and up) with special needs children. The goal was twofold: to provide one-on-one support to the children while reducing the sense of isolation among the adults. Since then, intergenerational programs have expanded to address numerous social concerns.
Benefits: Older Adults
Older adults who volunteer live longer and have better physical and mental health—and older adults who regularly volunteer with youth “burn 20% more calories per week, experienced fewer falls, were less reliant on canes, and performed better on a memory test,” according to Generations United. Even when the adults were dealing with dementia or other cognitive impairments, they demonstrated more positive effects when they interacted with children (compared with participating in non-intergenerational activities).
Intergenerational programming helps older adults be productive and engaged with the community. As they interact with youth, they also learn about new innovations and technologies.
Children who are involved in intergenerational mentoring programs are:
- 46 percent less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 27 percent less likely to begin using alcohol
- 52 percent less likely to skip school
They develop “skills, values, and a sense of empowerment, leadership, and citizenship ... social networks, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, positive attitudes towards aging, a sense of purpose and community service . . . [and] good self-esteem.”
One of the major benefits of intergenerational programs, is bringing together diverse groups and helping to reduce inaccurate stereotypes as older adults and youth develop relationships with one another. They help to “build a sense of personal and societal identity while encouraging tolerance.”
Intergenerational Volunteering in NE Ohio
If you’re looking to get started in an intergenerational program, here is information about The Intergenerational Schools, with locations on both the east and west sides of Cleveland. Volunteer opportunities include:
- Mentoring: Reading mentors work with children, one on one, for one to two hours per week to share the “enjoyment of reading and storytelling.”
- Tutoring: the greatest need is in basic math to Algebra I, for grades K-8. “Math tutors can have an amazing impact on student success in this challenging subject,” and tutors are sometimes needed in other subject areas, as well.
- Leadership aides: Youth Core, a United Way-funded program, meets daily from 3 to 6 p.m. The group focuses on community service and leadership development, as well as business skills, to help prepare students in the fifth through eighth grades for high school, college and the work world. Volunteers help to plan and implement programs while serving as leadership mentors.
- Garden stewards: Students and mentors cultivate produce and flowers as part of a gardening club. There also is a “brand new Edible Forest Garden which takes a poly-cultural approach to raising amazing plants where the end results are—edible of course—while also focusing on personal and environmental connections of health, education and appreciation of nature through science and social collaboration.”
Scroll down on this page to fill out the volunteer application or contact Eric McGarvey at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 216-721-0190, ext. 1107, with questions.
Intergenerational volunteering opportunities may also be available through your local community or senior center, or local schools or churches. It’s important that you find the best match for the most enriching experience.