Intergenerational Volunteering

The following article appears courtesy of Carol Ayars, CVA, AmeriCorps Seniors Programs Manager with Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging in Richmond, Virginia.

One of my earliest childhood memories is helping my Granny teach her Cub Scout Den how to tie knots. I was about six years old and my Granny, well I always thought she was old but in reality, was about 60.

The National Council on Aging defines intergenerational programming as “activities or programs that increase cooperation, interaction or exchange between any two generations. It involves the sharing of skills,  knowledge or experience between old and young.” Intergenerational volunteering is simply when generations volunteer together with the goal of bringing them together to be form a relationship.

More than spending time together, there are benefits for both age groups. For the youth, it can provide them with a mentor that encourages and invests in them personally. It can keep the older adult active and involved in life and their community. It helps battle social isolation that both generations may feel.

For both generations to benefit, it must be ongoing so that it builds the  relationship. Through this relationship, a mutual understanding can develop and can reduce friction caused by stereotypes. The older generation learns that today’s kids are just kids and there is hope for the future, especially when a caring adult is involved in their life. It reminds them that they still have a lot to give to society. Meanwhile, the younger generation may realize that there are still things the older generation can teach them and that “old” is just an age.

According to Generations United’s 2021 Fact Sheet: Intergenerational Programs Benefit Everyone, 92% of Americans believe intergenerational activities can help reduce loneliness across all ages. It goes on to say that nearly eight out of ten adults want to spend more time with people outside their age group.

Today it’s called intergenerational volunteering but in my young mind, I was just helping my Granny so I could spend time with my hero and best friend.

Reference to any non-U.S. government organization, event or product does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation or favoring of that organization, event or product and is strictly for the information and convenience of the public.

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