Senior housing providers are increasingly interested in providing intergenerational programming, as a way to  connect residents to their community, enhance well-being for both youth and older adults, reduce ageism, and stimulate interest in working with older adults.

A new report, Intergenerational Programming in Senior Housing: From Promise to Practice, describes findings from a year-long study on intergenerational programming in senior housing conducted by Generations United and LeadingAge, with support from the Retirement Research Foundation. The piece was developed by Nancy Henkin, Generations United Senior Fellow, Taryn Patterson, PhD, Leading Age Policy Research Associate, Robyn Stone, DrPH and Leading Age SVP and Donna Butts, Generations United Executive Director,  The following implementation issues were explored:

  1. Motivations for engaging in intergenerational activities and perceived benefits
  2. Partnerships
  3. Staffing
  4. Participant Engagement
  5. Activities
  6. Evaluation
  7. Funding/Sustainability

The report highlights challenges and effective strategies for overcoming barriers, plus technical assistance needs. It also includes four “Spotlights” that focus on different ways providers can integrate multigenerational activities into senior housing.

Key findings:

  • Many housing providers have integrated a range of intergenerational activities into their overall programming and see positive benefits for residents and youth.
  • Most housing sites, with some exceptions, focus on engaging residents in specific activities, rather than employing more general strategies to foster cross-age relationships.
  • Most intergenerational efforts identified are short-term or one-time events and do not require a major commitment of time.
  • Residents engage in both active and passive activities. Although residents in some properties are actively involved in planning and implementing intergenerational programs, most activities are planned by members of the housing team.
  • 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.Numerous provider-level challenges emerged and a variety of effective practices are outlined in each section of this report. Challenges include:• Insufficient staffing dedicated to intergenerational 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.

The authors note in their executive summary: “It is clear that many senior housing providers are engaged in intergenerational programming and that some of the long-standing programs are exemplary. However there is a gap between the promise of intergenerational programming and the level of intergenerational practice in most housing communities. Efforts to build the capacity of senior housing providers to implement high-quality programming and to facilitate peer learning are needed.”

Read the report here.

Published: May 14, 2018