While the young and old may be on the opposite ends of life, they still share a common bond. The quality of their life is dependent on the quality of care they receive. Their physical and mental health rests largely on human interaction.
As a result, intergenerational efforts like those of Earth’s Elders have a positive effect, not only on the elders and youth whom they serve, but also on the communities where we all live.
There are clear economic, social, and health benefits to bringing our elders and youth together, but consider this when thinking about this connection:
We are who they were and they are who we will become.
Connecting Our Elders
- A study from the Harvard School of Public Health found social engagement could have as much effect on prolonging life as fitness activities. Keeping social and busy evokes changes in the brain that protect against cognitive decline. This, in turn, influences physical processes regulated by the brain such as cellular immunity or mobilizing the body’s defenses against disease.
- In 2004, researchers at the University of Michigan concluded that individuals who experienced less cognitive decline were involved in a wider range of relationships and social interactions beyond the family unit.
Connecting Our Youth
- An EPA report on the benefits of intergenerational programs found that for youth these programs enhance social skills by improving communications skills, promoting self-esteem and developing problem solving abilities. Youth involved in these programs are almost 1/3 less likely to strike others. In addition, youth involved in intergenerational programs are 46% less likely to initiate drug use, and among minorities, that number increases to 70%.
- A study from the Corporation for National Service in Washington concluded that older adults had a measurable impact on students’ reading performance, attitudes about reading, self-confidence and motivation to reach. The author of the research stated, “something unique stems for the nature of the intergenerational relationship. The dynamic of that relationship reciprocal and accepting gives rise to opportunities for learning, growth and understanding for both participants.”