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Intergenerational Programming

Rationale—why Now?

Intergenerational programs have been evident in the United States since the late 1970s in response to emerging social issues and problems that have affected the quality of relationships between children, youth, older adults, and their families as well as the quality of life within our communities. These issues and problems are a function of some social, demographic, and economic conditions in the United States that have impacted society as a whole, but particularly the two most vulnerable populations—the young and the old. Examples of these conditions include:

  • An increase in the number of two working parent or single parent families that are over 70 percent of families with young children (Morrison 1995);
  • Nearly 500,000 teenage girls becoming parents each year—roughly 40 percent are below eighteen years of age, three-quarters of whom are unmarried and a majority are poor (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2000);
  • An increase in the older adult population, (persons over sixty years of age), which is approximately 15 percent of the total population in the United States, with the most rapidly growing population over eighty-five years of age (Williams 1995); and
  • The geographic separation of nuclear families and their grandparents, a condition experienced by between 30 and 40 percent of U.S. families, all of whom live more than 200 miles from their extended family members (Newman 1997).

Researchers and practitioners in child development, education, mental health and gerontology have suggested that there is a relationship between these social conditions and specific problems that are confronting our young and old (Newman et al. 1997). These problems include:

  • Isolation, low self-esteem, infrequent and inconsistent familial contact, and feelings of abandonment for older adults;
  • Poor school attendance, school drop out, lack of motivation, antisocial behaviors, and disconnection from the family for children and youth; and
  • Inadequate care giving, limited support systems, substance abuse, and poverty for both populations.

Intergenerational programs have been developed to bring together a community's young and old and to empower them by combining their assets, skills, interests, and backgrounds to address some of the societal issues that significantly affect their lives.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaRelatives & Extended FamilyIntergenerational Programming - Rationale—why Now?, Program Models, Intergenerational Interactions, Impact On Families, International Intergenerational Programming Efforts