Making Connections: The Legacy of an Intergenerational Program

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Abstract

Purpose of the Study:

On the face of the shrinking opportunities for children and older adults to routinely interact with one another—sometimes the result of adolescent geographies, age-segregated and gated communities, families’ geographical mobility—many communities have introduced intergenerational programs within the school curriculum. For more than a decade one Massachusetts community has maintained an intergenerational program that brings fourth grade students together with older adults. The question is, does students’ involvement in an intergenerational program lessened ageist beliefs 5–9 years later.

Design and Methods:

A quasi-experimental research design examined the “images of aging” held by 944 students who grew up in neighboring towns and attend a regional high school. Participants completed brief questionnaire.

Results:

Separate regression analyses of positive and negative images of aging—controlling for students’ frequency and self-reported quality of interaction with older adults, ethnicity, age, and gender—reveal a town difference in students’ positive, but not negative, images of aging.

Implications:

What is certain is that the high school students from one community with ongoing intergenerational programming hold a more positive image of older adults. Further research is needed to parse out exactly how short- and long-term legacy effects arise when young students have an opportunity to interact closely with older adults who are not their grandparents or neighbors.

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