Intergenerational Program, What is it all about?

For years the term intergenerational program has been buzzing around retirement and nursing homes across the county.   What is an Intergenerational program and who does it benefit?  The National Council on Aging defines “intergenerational programs” as “activities or programs that increase cooperation, interaction or exchange between any two generations. They involve the sharing of skills, knowledge, or experience between old and young.” These programs offer benefits to individuals from every generation as they offer mentoring relationships.  “Creating an age-integrated community leads to a healthy community, where the strengths of one generation meet the needs of another.  All generations grow in an appreciation for cultural heritages, traditions, histories and values” (, 2008). The goal of Maple Knoll Child Center’s intergenerational program is to provide meaningful and continual relationships, experiences and activities that are mutually beneficial and developmentally appropriate for both young and older person involved. A pre-school in a nursing home is a perfect fit.  Many of the senior’s and children’s psychosocial needs are complementary.  Some of these needs can be met when seniors and children come together and share experiences.  Older adults have a need to nurture and children need to be nurtured.  Children have a need to learn and older adults have the need to teach.  Older adults want to share cultural customs and children are just beginning to develop their cultural identity.  Older adults want to leave a legacy and children have a need to be connected to a previous generation.                                                        One of the benefits of my job is facilitating the intergenerational activities between the children of Maple Knoll Child Center and the residents of Maple Knoll VillageI get to witness the joy on the Resident’s faces as the children greet them with a smile and a hug, I hear he laughter that fills the area during one of our activities and see many smiles and ‘high-fives’ as a small group of residents and children successfully complete a puzzle. The children are a special part of the Resident’s life at Maple Knoll.  A resident said, “Nobody likes to get old and as you do, you miss children.  And some of these children don’t have grandparents and I’m a grandparent to them in a way that is satisfying. It’s wonderful to be around little people; they’re loving and get so close to you.” Bertha Smiley, who volunteered at the Child Center for 4 1/2 years before her death at the age of 102, noticed a young boy standing by himself looking sad and invited him to look at a book. “No”, he said. She asked if she could play a matching game with him. “No”, he said, “I just want to sit on your lap.” And Bertha recalled, “And so he came and sat on my lap and we held each other. And I went to bed that night feeling like that day was worthwhile.” Children benefit from Intergenerational Programs in many ways, including the promotion of personal relationship with elders and positive attitudes toward the aging. Intergenerational programs help young children develop empathy and give them a concrete understanding of physical disabilities. Intergenerational programs offer many benefits for the resident of the village:  the children help to reduce the felling of isolation and loneliness through social contact, it offers the residents opportunities to share a lifetime of experience and improves self-esteem. So who benefits from Intergenerational Programs?  Why everyone of course! For more information, please contact Meri Fox, director of the Maple Knoll Child Center at  
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