Intergenerational living embraces the concept of building relationships across generations, enriching both the young and old through meaningful experiences and connections. It is about fostering a village-like environment, where generations aren’t segmented from one another, but rather form an integrated community that learns, thrives, and finds purpose together.
While intergenerational programming brings different age groups together through scheduled activities, intergenerational living increases the opportunities to form deep and meaningful relationships amongst the generations, as it seamlessly integrates people of all ages to share life under one roof. This environment has tangible and lasting benefits for both seniors and children, from gains in cognitive function to improved emotional outcomes.
Here are nine proven benefits people – children and seniors alike – experience when they form and maintain intergenerational relationships.
1. Increased Sense of Connection
Intergenerational living brings people of various age groups together on a daily basis. This unique environment allows seniors to cultivate and enjoy enriching, meaningful relationships with people of younger generations, helping seniors to feel connected with their community.
2. Greater Engagement and Purpose
When seniors have the opportunity to form intergenerational relationships, they can share their knowledge, experience, and attention with children and youth. Making meaningful contributions to others can be as simple as sharing their time and attention with a child who is learning to read. Even in the simplest of gestures or activities, seniors find an increased sense of purpose in their daily lives.
3. Improved Self-Esteem
Intergenerational relationships provide seniors with ongoing opportunities to grow, try new things, and help others. When their positive impact on youth is tangible, seniors feel validated, useful, respected, and needed. This cultivates confidence and a growing sense of self-worth in seniors.
For children, their self-esteem and confidence grows with the attention and encouragement they experience from seniors. Through meaningful interactions with older generations, children can find new opportunities to learn, explore, and feel good about themselves.
4. Better Physical Health
Seniors who engage with younger generations on a regular basis have been shown to have a decreased risk of falls. In terms of nutrition, intergenerational relationships lead to increased appetites and greater calories burned throughout the day.
5. Decreased Incidence of Depression
Seniors who live in intergenerational communities enjoy better emotional health, with a markedly lower incidence of depression.
6. Lessened Social Isolation
With greater opportunities for engagement, seniors are less socially isolated in a multi-generational setting. Intergenerational living creates an environment that naturally fosters interaction, and draws individuals into meaningful relationships.
For children and youth, intergenerational relationships provide more options than just same-age playgroups. Children are able to find greater opportunities for engagement and connection with the seniors in their community – decrease feelings of loneliness or isolation.
7. Improved Academic Outcomes
Children who live within a multi-generational environment have improved literacy rates. They also achieve better results in math and science.
8. Increased Social Maturity
Because of what they learn from intergenerational relationships, children are able to develop greater social maturity and acceptance towards seniors and those with disabilities. Within a diverse community, children cultivate open-mindedness and empathy, in learning to relate and connect with individuals with a varied range of ages and abilities.
In an intergenerational living environment, residents don’t have to rely on scheduled programming alone to create engaging experiences between the generations. These experiences can happen spontaneously, reflecting the natural flow of activity that occurs in any home. For example, when it’s time for lunch, staff can engage both seniors and children in preparing the meal, while others visit or join in a small group activity such as playing cards or assembling a puzzle. The whole experience is like a large gathering of extended family, and it provides residents with a genuine feeling of belonging and home.
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but in truth, all generations benefit from living within the “village” – and everyone benefits from thriving intergenerational relationships.