Making the Case for Intergenerational Programs

Provides rationale and facts to help make the case for intergenerational programs

Making the Case for Intergenerational Programs is based on a comprehensive review of the literature on intergenerational programs and highlights evidence-based findings on how intergenerational programs benefit everyone.


We are living longer than we have ever lived in the history of humankind. In 2018, there were approximately 52.4 million adults aged 65+. We can expect this figure to nearly double to 94.7 million by 2060. One study predicts that half of all children born in western societies today will celebrate their 100th birthday (Christensen et al., 2009). Older women outnumber men and the older adult population is becoming more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, geography, sexual and gender identities, and faith (Administration for Community Living, 2020; Fredriksen Goldsen & de Vries, 2019). Half of the United States will be of people of color by 2042 (Generations United, 2013). Intergenerational programs can help unite diverse populations in terms of age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender identity, and sexual orientation to promote a stronger sense of social cohesion and purpose. While we are living longer, our society is experiencing profound challenges in education, health, work and retirement, family caregiving, civic engagement, and a sense of belonging. Health, economic, and social inequities are a reality for many individuals and families. Black, Indigenous, and people of color carry a heavier burden of disease, disability, and multimorbidity such as diabetes, major depression, and social isolation. Many have tied these inequities to systemic racism (Gee & Ford, 2011). Ageism and age discrimination affect the young and old (Marchiondo et al. 2016) and is prevalent nationally and globally. Age discrimination in the workplace is estimated to cost approximately $850 billion annually due to lost opportunities for companies to produce goods and services by older workers (AARP, 2020). Internalized ageism is linked with depression, higher risk for cognitive impairment, and it also costs approximately $63 billion annually in health care expenditures (Levy et al., 2020). We need to reimagine and rebuild communities to ensure healthy development for our growing demographic diversity (Generations United, 2013). Living longer will require that we live healthier and smarter, in harmony with one another and with nature. The causes and solutions to these issues are multidimensional and complex. Innovative ideas are needed to ensure equal opportunity to education, economic security, health and health care, social and community relations, as well as healthy neighborhoods and safe built environments (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2020). The good news is that there are local and national programs that bring the experience, talents, skills, and passion of different populations together to address these critical issues. This resource is based on a comprehensive review of the literature on intergenerational programs and highlights evidence-based findings on how intergenerational programs benefit everyone. The goals are ambitious and the outcomes are inspiring. Intergenerational programs are charting a way to achieve a healthy, equitable, and harmonious society for all.


Intergenerational programs intentionally unite the generations in ways that enrich participants’ lives and help address vital social and community issues while building on the positive resources that young and old have to offer each other and to their communities. These programs bring people of different generations together for ongoing, mutually beneficial, planned activities, designed to achieve specified program goals, and promote greater understanding and respect between generations. Reciprocity, sustainability, intentionality, training, support, and viewing younger and older people as assets are hallmarks of successful programs.


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