Fountain of Youth Re-Discovered?

Could the “Fountain of Youth” be right under our noses?
In a simpler, not so distant past, multi-generational families lived, worked and played together as a natural part of life. Nowadays, with families spread out across the country, those life-affirming multigenerational experiences are dwindling. Or are they?

Statistics tell us that with each new day, 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65 years of age. By 2050, the population aged 65 and over is projected to be 83.7 million, almost double the estimated population of 43.1 million in 2012. (1) So why not utilize the invaluable resources seniors have to offer filling social and educational needs of our youth and children? These older adults have wisdom and experience to impart to younger generations and they stand to benefit in return. The graphic below from Generation United’s 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Awards makes this point. (2)

According to Grantmakers in Aging, the benefits are profound and life-changing. (3)

Benefit for youth/children

• Increased self-esteem and self-worth
• Improved behavior
• Increased involvement in schoolwork
• Improved reading scores
• Appreciation for older people
• Enhanced sense of belonging in their communities

Benefits for older adults

• Improved health among volunteers
• Improved health, and fewer falls among older adults in shared sites
• More positive effect among older adults with dementia
• Increased connectedness and less isolation
• Enhanced feelings of self-worth

Benefits to the community

• Enhanced awareness and appreciation of cultural heritage and traditions
• Increased collaboration between local organizations
• More vibrant and cohesive communities
• Greater community support for school and youth programs
• Improved learning environment in schools

Countless agencies integrate and facilitate intergenerational programming. Whether it is a reading mentor program in an elementary school, a daycare embedded within a nursing home or a blended neighborhood designed to bring together aging seniors and adopted foster kids, the goal is simple… to exchange knowledge, build relationships, live more fulfilling lives.
The expectation is that more and more of these innovative programs will be popping up everywhere. Programs designed to put baby boomers right along side youth while living, working and playing together improve the health and well being of communities.

1. Jennifer M. Ortman, Victoria A. Velkoff, and Howard Hogan, An Aging Nation: The Older Population in the United States Population Estimates and Projections, May 2014, Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p25-1140.pdf
2. 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Awards, retrieved from http://www.gu.org
3. Retrieved from http://www.giaging.org/resources/gia-toolkit/children-youth-and-families-and-aging/benefits

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