Intergenerational Opportunities in Early Childhood Settings
With the number of children in care settings increasing every year and fewer resources available1, intergenerational programs in early childhood programs have become a growing trend. Intergenerational programs can pool limited resources for the benefit of children, the community, and older adults. These programs come in different forms: older volunteers entering child care centers, preschools, and other schools to tutor and/or mentor children; children visiting older adults in nursing homes or other care facilities; older adults and children sharing space and interacting on a daily basis; and much more.
This fact sheet will highlight the benefits of intergenerational programming in early childhood; share program examples that show positive results; provide possible partners to get started; and offer resources for more in depth information.
What are the Benefits?
The benefits of intergenerational programs in early childhood settings are numerous.
- Increase understanding of the aging process
- Develop a new relationship outside family
- Exhibit better behavior in classroom and other environments
- Learn they can give to others in need • Learn soft social skills such as manners
For Older Adults:
- Demonstrate their value to society
- Have other people who care about them
- Increase emotional support, giving and receiving
- Expand social roles
- Work part-time, as volunteer or with stipend
- Combine limited resources to address a need
- Implement innovative program ideas
- Create greater volunteer opportunities
Intergenerational programs in early childhood education are compelling for those developing or designing good programs. These programs can:
- Bring individuals of different generations together for a common purpose, like education,
- Fill a need that might not otherwise be met, such as tutors in the classroom or child care workers,
- Create opportunities for interaction across generations,
- Enhance social/personal skills for children by over 5 months compared to children in non-intergenerational programs2, and
- Build organizational capacity.
Intergenerational programs in early childhood settings are emerging in communities throughout the country. Most of these programs take place in classroom settings, but more and more programs are taking innovative approaches to bringing older adults and young children, like in a co-located day care center. Here are just a few examples of the programs that currently exist.
OTTER (Older Teachers Training Ealyy Readers (ORLANDO, FL)
- OTTER is an intergenerational program designed to boost the reading skills of at-risk preschool children.
- The program which was launched during the 2004-2005 school year is run by the Foster Grandparent Program of Central Florida and has since doubled its size.
- For more information call 407-298-4180 or visit their website at www.fostergrandparentprogram.org/Foster_Grandpx.html
The Generations Child Development Center (San Francisco, CA)
- The Generations Child Development Center, a partnership between On Lok Senior Health Services and Wu Yee Children’s Services, is a multicultural, bilingual, intergenerational program offering joint activities for preschool children and frail elderly.
- Generations offers a welcoming and interactive environment for preschool children and older adults. The children learn positive attitudes toward aging. The older adults’ wellness and quality of life are enhanced by daily interaction with the preschoolers.
- For more information call 415-292-8888 or visit their website at www.onlok.org/index.asp.
- An initiative that bridges the generations by raising the visibility of older adults in support of quality early learning.
- ELDER (Energetic Leaders Demanding Education and Results) Captains volunteer their expertise in early learning centers.
- For more information call 202-289-3979 or visit www.seniors4kids.org
Le’lum’uy’lh Child Development Centre (Cowichan Valley, British Columbia, Canada)
- Le’lum’uy’lh Child Development Centre was created by the Cowichan Tribes, part of the “First Nation” people, in western Canada to better the education of their children.
- Led by their elders, the Cowichan Tribes have concentrated their efforts in education, cultural teachings, language preservation, and childrearing and family supports
- To help preserve their cultural traditions in the coming generations, elder cultural teachers at Le’lum’uy’lh are integrating cultural teachings in their schools through programs like “Elders-in-Residence,” in which elders are engaged to teach culture and tradition ranging from language instruction to basket-weaving.
- For more information call 250-746-8119 or visit www.quwutsun.ca
Reprinted with the permission of Generations United. © 2008 Generations United.
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