Aging and Intergenerational Relationships

Author: Cheryl Fama, Peninsula Health Care District CEO

“Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of the nation.” – Margaret Mead

You probably have memories of a favorite grandparent, or maybe you’re that favorite grandparent in a child’s life. You’ve likely experienced the many joys of having a close relationship with a grandparent or other older relative, but did you know that intergenerational relationships have health and wellness benefits for both the young and the old alike?  I’m proud that the Peninsula Health Care District is a catalyst for bringing a focus on intergenerational connectivity and wellness through our proposed Peninsula Wellness Community (PWC).

According to a San Mateo County Aging Model policy brief, demographic projections show that San Mateo County can expect to see a 72 percent increase in the number of older adults (65+) by the year 2030. While some may cite the negative impact of health care and retirement costs, sociologists and psychologists are among those who say there are many positive benefits as well.

Research has shown that the presence of children promotes healthy aging, and can reduce certain types of anxiety in seniors. It reduces risk of isolation, and increases emotional wellbeing and learning of new skills, such as social media, technology, and the internet.

In children, intergenerational relationships are shown to improve academic performance, increase social skills, reduce negative behavior and increase stability. Older adults provide perspectives and experiences that help children understand the world around them. (Bosak, n.d.)

A great example of how intergenerational relationships benefit people across the age spectrum is ONEgeneration, an intergenerational care center for adults and children in a shared setting located in Van Nuys, California. While children and elderly people increasingly live in age-segregated worlds, ONEgeneration is a leader in the movement to develop programs that combine care for these bookend generations, ultimately allowing them to help each other. According to ONEgeneration’s website, “When ONEgeneration’s seniors and children join in activities, seniors recall favorite songs, games, and projects of their pasts as they share their skills, patience, and expertise with pre-schoolers. When older adults tutor young people, they bring critical one-on-one attention to the youths’ skill building, while the young people make seniors more comfortable with new technologies. This reciprocity builds mutual respect and a sense of community, providing children and adults with diverse role models. The extraordinary relationships formed last throughout our participants’ lives.”

As we plan for the PWC, a gathering place that will engage all ages and levels of wellness with services and activities, we are identifying ways to strengthen intergenerational relationships, for the benefit of the community as a whole.  PWC will offer housing for older adults, health support across generations, and working spaces for professionals and researchers. It will become a hub for wellness and medical services, and a catalyst for intergenerational relationships. We look forward to sharing more about our plans for PWC, and if you are interested in learning more, I invite you to visit our website or attend an upcoming community meeting.

References

Bosak, S. V. (n.d.). Benefits of Intergenerational Connections. Retrieved from Legacy Project: http://www.legacyproject.org/guides/intergenbenefits.html

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