Despite the fact that many senior housing providers have incorporated intergenerational activities into their overall programming and see positive benefits for residents and youths, most of those programs are short-term or one-time events that don’t require a major commitment of time. So says a recent report from Generations United and LeadingAge that distills the results of a year-long study on the nature and extent of intergeneration programming in senior housing.
Titled Intergenerational Programming in Senior Housing: From Promise to Practice, this long overdue initiative examines why, how, and what providers are doing to implement intergenerational programs, including partnerships, activities, participant engagement, evaluation, staffing, and funding/sustainability.
The most common activities taking place at provider communities are “friendly visiting,” arts programming, health and wellness activities, oral history/reminiscence interviewing, and language/literacy programs.
Here are some more key findings:
- Most housing sites, with some exceptions, focus on engaging residents in specific activities, rather than employing more general strategies to foster cross-age relationships.
- Residents engage in both active and passive activities and, although residents at some properties are actively involved in planning and implementing programs, members of the housing team plan most activities.
- Most providers have not identified clear outcomes for older adults or youth, nor have they conducted formal program evaluations.
- There is limited training of staff and volunteers.
The report also identifies both challenges and effective strategies for overcoming barriers to implementing IG program. Some of those challenges are as follows:
- Insufficient staffing dedicated to IG programming;
- Difficulties with engaging older adults;
- Transportation for both youth and elders; and
- Lack of time to plan activities with partners due to other responsibilities.
Among the most valuable components of the report are the effective strategies that providers have identified in helping them overcome challenges. Here is a sampling:
- Utilizing a Volunteer Coordinator or Outreach Manager to develop partnerships and oversee intergenerational-related work has helped to alleviate staffing concerns.
- Recruiting and training “Lead Volunteers” who can help with activities.
- Involving staff from partner organizations in planning and facilitating activities.
- Creating an intergenerational advisory group to help plan and implement programs.
- Including the marketing department in planning so it can market the program as a property asset.
- Allowing the community’s property van to pick students up from school.
- Engaging all partners in short and long-term planning to enhance the quality of programs and ensure that those programs meet the needs of all age groups.
- Holding regular meetings to provide partners an opportunity to creatively address logistical concerns that could prevent a program’s successful implementation.
- Planning meaningful programs and activities that are explicitly designed to address the needs, interests and knowledge/skills of participants.
- Finding partners that have shared interests and values, or a common need that can be met through
The conclusion of the report—which is not difficult to surmise based on the findings—is that while many senior housing providers are engaged in intergenerational programming, it appears the majority of the programs do not rise to the level of being high-quality.
As someone who has long advocated for intergenerational programs in senior living, I hope this will change in the near future, as we continue to hurdle ever so rapidly toward a world where elders will dominate the population.
If you want a focused approach to staying on top of industry trends that is facilitated by experts in the senior living field, contact Quantum Age today.