A Little Context
AARP research has found that nearly 90% of older adults want to stay in their homes rather than move to the home of a relative or to the more prevalent path to assisted living or a nursing home before it is a necessity. Approximately one-third of seniors will spend time in a nursing home. 10,000 people are turning 65 every day, and Denver is considered the country’s Baby-Boomer capital, with Boomers constituting 32.8% of Denver Metro’s total population of 2.4 million people. With the economic realities of shrinking pensions and the uncertainty of government money in the form of Social Security and Medicare, other industry must respond.
The Village model is the nonprofit sector’s response to this reality. A Little Help is tailoring this model to operate more intergenerationally by reforming it as a community for all ages. Our model addresses a social and economic need in our society. With a rapidly growing population of elders and shrinking resources, A Little Help bridges the gap by connecting people who live nearby as neighbors; the more of these connections we can make, the less taxpayer money will need to be allocated for government intervention to care for seniors. A Little Help can also partner with long-term care facilities to create realistic short- and long-term care plans for our members. We’re striving for a balance of idealism and pragmatism- our model sounds great idealistically and saves money practically; we’re able to increase safety and health for older adults by using resources that are already in each community- good neighbors.
Research conducted by AARP and the Blue Zones project, which studies areas of earth where people live the longest, shows that those who live longer, healthier lives do so by having close relationships with their neighbors and by constantly finding new purpose as they grow older. Belonging to a meaningful community and having a healthy social circle promotes healthful longevity. These studies also indicate that interdependence across generations is crucial. In our adaptation of the Village model, we use resources like the Intergenerational Center at Temple University and have joined organizations including Communities for All Ages and Generations United, which help us meet our mission and grow towards our vision.
The Importance of Intergenerational Connection
“The term ‘intergenerational community‘ refers to a place that (1) provides adequately for the safety, health, education and basic necessities of life for people of all ages; (2) promotes programs, policies, and practices that increase cooperation, interaction, and exchange between people of different generations; and (3) enables all ages to share their talents and resources, and support each other in relationships that benefit both individuals and their community.
An intergenerational community is not just one where multiple generations reside. It is one where individuals of all ages are an integral and valued part of the setting. This perspective is reflected in the families, structures, facilities and services that children and older adults encounter in the community, as well as in day-to-day interactions and relationships. Partnerships are essential to intergenerational communities and can be between local government, senior citizen homes, schools, businesses, local cultural and community organizations and services, families, older adults and children. An intergenerational community builds on the positive resources that each generation has to offer each other and those around them. It advances policies and practices that both acknowledge and promote intergenerational interdependence.”
-From Generations United’s America’s Best Intergenerational Communities: Building Livable Communities for Children, Youth, Families, and Older Adults
“Interdependence: People feel a sense of shared fate with one another. The age-old social compact is strong as generations rely on each other for care, support, and nurturing. Elders are viewed as resources to families and communities. Young people feel valued as resources for elders and gain a sense of self-efficacy.
Reciprocity: People of all ages have opportunities to give and receive support; to teach and learn. Age groups rely on each other for support.
Individual worth: Each individual, regardless of age, race/ethnicity, gender, or other differences, deserves respect and care, is entitled to equal access to the community’s resources, and has opportunities to contribute to the community.
Diversity/Inclusion: Efforts are made to foster understanding across diverse groups, which promotes recognition of shared priorities and untapped resources. Policies and programs are designed for all members of the community, with the understanding that improvements to overall community quality of life will benefit most members of the community.
Equity: Fairness is reflected in all policies and services. Advocates for the young and the old are not pitted against each other for limited resources, but work together as allies toward the development of mutually beneficial policies and service.
Social connectedness: Social relationships build and deepen the social networks that provide support for all age groups. Formal and informal networks create opportunities for fostering connection across age, race, ethnicity and class, thus building a shared sense of community.”
-From Communities for All Ages’ Intergenerational Community Building: Resource Guide
“For the Community
- Strengthens Community: Intergenerational programs bring together diverse groups and networks and help to dispel inaccurate stereotypes. Sharing talents and resources help to create a unified group identity. Children, youth, and older adults are less alienated while the community recognizes that they are contributing members of society.
- Maximizes Human Resources: Intergenerational community service programs tend to multiply human resources by engaging older adults and youth as volunteers.
- Maximizes Financial Resources: When groups representing young and old approach local funders, those funders are more likely to respond positively because they can see broad-based community support. Intergenerational programs can save money and stretch scarce resources by sharing sites and/or resources.
- Expands Services: Intergenerational community service programs can expand the level of services to meet more needs and address more issues.
- Encourages Cultural Exchange: Intergenerational programs promote the transmission of cultural traditions and values from older to younger generations, helping to build a sense of personal and societal identity while encouraging tolerance.
- Inspires Collaboration: Intergenerational programs can unite community members to take action on public policy issues that address human needs across the generations.
For Youth and Children
- Enhances Social Skills: Interaction with older adults enhances communication skills, promotes self-esteem, develops problem-solving abilities, and fosters friendships across generations. Positive attitudes are developed regarding sense of purpose and community service. Additionally, youth involved in mentoring programs have been show to be almost one-third less likely to hit others.
- Improves Academic Performance: Intergenerational programs increase school attendance and performance. Students tutored by older adults made significantly greater gains in achievement test scores than other students.
- Decreases Drug Use: Youth involved in intergenerational mentoring programs are 46% less likely to report the initiation of drug use, and among minority youth that statistic increased to 70%.
- Increases Stability: Children and youth gain positive role models with whom they can interact on a regular basis. Older adult volunteers help to provide children and youth with consistency through mentoring and in child care facilities that average a 25-35% turnover rate.
For Older Adults
- Enhances Socialization: Older adults remain productive, useful, and contributing members of society. They increase interaction with children and youth and engage more with one another to prevent isolation in later years.
- Stimulates Learning: Older adults learn new innovations and technologies from their younger counterparts.
- Increases Emotional Support: Intergenerational programs afford older adults an opportunity to participate in a meaningful activity. This decreases loneliness, boredom, and depression while increasing self-esteem. Older volunteers report more enriched lives, a rejuvenated sense of purpose, and increased coping skills for their personal struggles.
- Improves Health: Helping contributes to the maintenance of good health, and can diminish the effect of psychological and physical diseases and disorders.”
-From the EPA’s Aging Initiative Benefits of Intergenerational Programs