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Public Gives Thumbs-Up to Intergenerational Initiatives

Shared-space programs draw widespread support and show positive results

Elderly woman plays educational game with young girl

BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

Older participants in shared space programs gain physical and mental health, while the children improve in social development and learning.

Americans overwhelmingly support initiatives that bring older and younger people together in one place, according to a recent poll. And a study of such programs uncovered clear signs of success.

Researchers found that “intergenerational shared sites have succeeded … and a growing body of research has shown impressive results,” based on a study of 105 “shared site” programs, coordinated by the nonprofit Generations United in collaboration with the Ohio State University (OSU).

Among the positives for older participants: better physical and mental health. For the youth: more learning, social development and better perceptions of older adults.

Separately, a Harris Poll commissioned by Generations United and the Eisner Foundation earlier this year, found that only 26 percent were aware of places in their community that care for old and young together. But a strong majority (89 percent) “believe serving both children/youth and older adults at the same location is a good use of resources.” Some 82 percent said they would support tax-funded facilities that bring different age groups together.

In a report, “All in Together,” published recently by Generations United and the Eisner Foundation, the authors wrote about a “convergence of opportunity” that combines a demand for quality children and youth services with an increasing need for creative older-adult programs to create an environment “ripe for innovative age-integrated care.”

The report addresses isolation in particular, pointing to studies that show the prevalence of loneliness among older adults and its damaging effects.