Vanessa Emm, BA, ACC
NAAP Membership/Nominations Trustee
There are various stereotypes that plague elderly today, especially in
the eyes of the youth. Some of these stereotypes include but aren’t limited to:
• The elderly are cranky and demanding
• Inactive and dependent
• Suffer from poor health and are slow moving
As the elderly are plagued with stereotypes so are the care centers that they reside in.
Some of these stereotypes include but aren’t limited to:
• Unpleasant odors
• Where people go to die
• Nothing fun ever happens
We often find that most of these stereotypes are in younger adults and children that
have had limited exposure to the elderly and care centers. More than ever new
initiatives are emerging throughout the country that aim to bring young and old adults
together in various settings to interact, engage, educate, support, and provide care for
one another. It is vital as advocates for our residents that we do all we can to dispel
these stereotypes and awaken our communities to see what is really going on within
the walls of your center.
I began an intergenerational program with an all-boy facility in our community. We were
all a little leary as to the outcomes, however, we pushed forward. It has been two years
now that this group has been coming on a weekly basis to my facility. I have seen
dramatic positive changes in my residents and to witness the young men interacting
and leaving feeling positive and motivated has been the ultimate reward. While the
boys learn about aging and build personal relationships with my residents, my
residents are able to feel young again in their presence.
When planning an intergenerational program it requires careful thought, planning and
continuous evaluation in order to succeed.
1. It is important that your facility understands the need for intergenerational
programs and that you have full support of your team to assist you in accomplishing
2. Assemble a proposal containing your objectives, goals, and foreseen outcomes
and benefits of the program. Your proposal should include:
(a) What your proposing to do
(c) Volunteer goals
(e) Resident goals
(f) Volunteer opportunities
3. It’s important to get the word out to your community groups to gain momentum
for your program. Remember you are advertising your facility. There are various
untapped resources in all communities that can provide a wonderful intergenerational
experience for your residents: Boy Scout troops, Girl Scout troops, church youth groups,
daycare centers, high school, elementary schools, YMCA, The Boys & Girls Club.
4. A great program to get community groups involved in is the “Adopt a Grandparent”
program. This can be advertised within the schools and community groups with
screening done by the activity department.
5. Once you have made contact with an organization that you feel would “fit” well with
your facility it is important to state clearly what your intentions, goals and objectives are
for your residents and facility in relation to the program. EVERYONE MUST BE ON THE
6. It may not always be easy to obtain a good partnership with another agency/entity
for your programming but once that partner is found it is useful to engage staff at all
levels in your department goals and an introduction of the program. It’s important for
your department staff to also be on board and understand the importance of
So what is your role as the program coordinator: get projects started, organize training
sessions (if needed) for your residents and volunteers, and continuously evaluate your
program (what works and what doesn’t).
Intergenerational Programming Ideas:
Arts & Crafts: This is a great activity for seniors and youth to work together on. This
provides great one-on-one time and gives them the opportunity to build friendship and
rapport with each other. Other benefits are team work, communication, and artistic
Themed: Holiday projects are a great way to bring back tradition and reminisce about
the holiday’s past. This is a good time to educate residents and youth about historical
events in relation to holiday’s.
Skits & Plays: These are great fun especially when you have a youth group to perform
Special events & Parties: Celebrations are a great time to jump start your
intergenerational programs. Volunteers so often enjoy being a part of the lifestyle of a
care center and feel very excited to be assisting with major facility celebrations.
Memory Books: This is a great way to engage your residents with the volunteers on a
more personal level. This also provides a good one-on-one activity and assists with
building trust, communication and education.
Special Community Projects: Assisting groups with making items for orphans
overseas, care packages and cards for the U.S. Troops overseas. These type of
projects are very meaningful and really give the participants the feeling of being needed
and helping others.
Educational: Activities that deal with training and educating residents and volunteers on
disease processes, physical aspects of aging, and recreational benefits related to
age. Using education for an activity is a great way for multidiscipline learning. Great
elements to incorporate into educational activities are: nature, history and science.
However, the most important aspect of your intergenerational program is to have fun
and enjoy the company of others.
Other program ideas include but aren’t limited to:
• Owl Pellets
• Building Birdhouses
• Outdoor Activities
• Collage Art
• Historical Art Projects
• Holiday Events (i.e. Christmas tree decorating, pumpkin carving, making
centerpieces, Easter eggs, etc.)
• Partner Bingo
• Board Games
• Card Games
THE SKY IS THE LIMIT WHEN IT COMES TO INTERGENERATIONAL PROGRAMS!
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