Over the last few years, both in the US and the UK (and no doubt in other countries too) organized efforts have been made to bridge the generational gap. In this article, we look at two of these: one from the US and the other from the UK.
The first, involves a student from America’s Drake University, Gabby Clutter who resides in a retirement community. As a senior, her accommodation is Deerfield – a senior living community located about 15 minutes from her campus. How does the program – now in its second year – work? A Drake University student is chosen and then provided with free meals and an apartment so that they can integrate into the senior community. And the residents really like it. Clutter was selected as she was willing to give up college life, but she benefits from the freebies, which also include a washer and dryer and her own parking place as well as “a bunch of grandparents in [her] life.” When she had a new boyfriend she was told he had to come “for dinner because us grandmas need to approve!”
Clutter has her friends come over and see how special it is and teaches them the importance of connecting to people not in t heir demographic and the ‘grandmas’ love the youthful element it brings. Plus rather than be scared of the youngsters (they read so many terrible stories) when meeting them as individuals it gives the elderly confidence to see them as people, not hooligans. In other words, it totally breaks down barriers and aids in destroying stereotypes. They begin to develop respect for each other.
In England a slightly different initiative is underway at Sunderland College with students who have become “intergenerational advocates.” Offering advocacy and companionship healthcare students work with care home residents to be their “advocates,” and to listen to them, providing an additional support. staff working at the senior housing schemes select the residents who would likely most benefit from such assistance and match them up with these students.
Like with the US initiative, this has met with “great success” establishing an “upbeat…positive and rewarding vibe” in the home. The students have brought so many new things to the elderly such as crafts, music, reading and more. It’s very meaningful for them and has a huge impact on the elderly. As Sunderland College’s Health and Social Care Lecturer Carla Raine explained: “This initiative gives our students a meaningful opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of our older community. Unfortunately social isolation is becoming an increasingly common problem for older people and there are many risks associated with this such as meantl health issues. So it’s fantastic to see younger members of our society helping to combat the effects of social isolation by working with health and care providers in the region.