Updated: Sep 6, 2021
“yesterday’s child is today’s adult and tomorrow’s grandmother or grandfather” (WHO, 2002)
The quote emphasises the importance of maintaining positive relationships between individuals in different generations. The WHO (2002) report recommends intergenerational bonding due to its mutual benefits to both parties in different age groups. This is because it not only stimulates learning, understanding, and increased bonding, but also is suggested to improve well-being and reduce feelings of loneliness in older adults.
These intergenerational links act a helpful tools to pass information and teachings across age groups. Their interaction with and support of the younger generation gives them a sense of purpose which positively influences their mood and well-being. Having strong relationships through generational bonding also mitigates older adults’ risk of social isolation and dependency as they age. In parallel, the younger family members not only benefit from the support and guidance provided, but also develop meaningful relationships with older family members.
Intergenerational Solidarity Programs in Communities
Interestingly, the strength and benefits garnered by intergenerational programs go beyond family units. Research studies have demonstrated that unrelated individuals from different age groups who jointly engage in activities also see benefits from intergenerational programs. For example, the “Let’s Re-Generate” project in Central Italy aimed to promote intergenerational solidarity between older adults in nursing homes and adolescents (Santini, Tombolesi, Baschiera, & Lamura, 2018). This project showed that intergenerational interaction and bonding over shared activities positively impacted the community. Results demonstrated mutual understanding helped to reduce age-related stereotypes and foster positive communication and bonding.
Additionally, the intergenerational program improved the older adults’ mental well-being and quality of life and reduced risk of social isolation. A systematic review citing studies over a 15-year period from 1995-2010 reported that the impact of social isolation leads to numerous health conditions as well as reduced well-being and quality of life in older adults (Nicholson, 2012). Therefore, intergenerational programs become a useful tool to promote overall health, wellness, and social interaction amongst the elderly population.
When considering the larger community, a report by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs said these programs lead to greater trust and bonding on a societal level.
Overall, connecting generations positively impacts the various age groups by reducing risk of social isolation for older adults, allowing for communication and understanding, reducing age-related stereotypes, and establishing meaningful relationships.