One in five older adults face isolation, and depression rates among college students are 1.5 times higher than they were in 2019. These sound like two separate problems, but the solution to both can be found in intergenerational programming. You know us as Seniors in Service, but the reality is that we engage volunteers of all ages, and we’ve seen how bringing multiple generations together for social connection can improve the lives of everyone.
As you saw on the cover of this newsletter, we have a history of intergenerational programming through Foster Grandparents. In the past two years, we’ve found even more ways to bring multiple generations together by adding services like Health Buddies and TelePals.
At the height of the pandemic, Seniors in Service focused on providing social support services to ensure every senior who needed a friend to talk to had somebody. We know the devastating effects isolation can have on seniors’ mental and physical well-being, so to increase our capacity to serve, we began engaging college students as Health Buddies and TelePals. It started as a service to support seniors, but it’s proven just as beneficial for the younger generation.
Sana Lulu is a college student who serves as a Health Buddy, providing social connection for seniors living with chronic conditions. She shared how this program helped her as much as the seniors she was serving, “Just as much as the seniors are feeling lonely and isolated, I was feeling lonely and isolated. Sometimes my clients would call ME and it would make ME feel special, because they were thinking of me. It made me feel really warm inside like I’m really doing something good.”
The benefits of intergenerational relationships go beyond the benefits of social connections. These relationships break down stereotypes, build empathy, and provide opportunities to learn from each other. Melannie Laya is also a college student volunteer who is bilingual. She has had the chance to connect with Spanish-speaking volunteers and clients, and this is what she shared, “I think it’s really cool to speak to the older generations who are immigrants because I immigrated to the United States when I was about a year old. I think it’s so interesting to hear about their culture and what they did in their country when they were younger.”
Intergenerational programs discourage ageism and create a more cohesive society where people of all ages support each other. As we expand as an organization into more and more intergenerational services we hope you will join us because we know everyone has something to give and something to gain when people of all generations come together to serve.