AFS Blog

Intergenerational Gathering Places

Posted on July 17, 2018 | by Josephine Eisenberg
Intergenerational Gathering Places

Consider this fact... every day, approximately 10,000 people are turning 65, and that is going to happen every day for the next 12+ years. (Pew Research Center)

This statistic is mind-boggling for me when I think about the prevalence of ageism and age-segregation throughout our world. Research shows that people of different generations want many of the same things — a safe place to live, affordable housing, quality education, opportunities for lifelong learning and recreational activities, economic security, and a sense of belonging and purpose. If we all want the same thing, why are so many communities struggling to create meaningful intergenerational engagement?

While talking with a friend of mine, she asked: "What does intergenerational really mean anyway?" We looked up the definition and found this. Intergenerational: 'of, relating to, or for individuals in different generations or age categories.' Throughout the rest of our conversation, I found myself wanting a deeper understanding of the concept of intergenerational. So I did some research and came across a few definitions that helped me understand the importance of intergenerational engagement.

  • Mono-generational: Programs, activities and community spaces that are designed from a single generation-specific perspective, such as to be "elder-friendly" or "youth-friendly." Emphasis is placed on meeting the needs and interests of a single age group.

  • Multi-generational: Programs, activities and community spaces aimed at enabling and even encouraging the simultaneous presence of people from more than one generation. Tends to include special measures to attract and ensure enhanced accessibility for diverse generations – public playgrounds and outdoor fitness areas allowing coexistence of older adults and children within the same space.

  • Intergenerational: This definition includes, but goes beyond, multi-generational objectives. Emphasis is placed on promoting intergenerational awareness, understanding, interaction, and perhaps even collaborative/joint action. The attention is focused on "being together" (i.e., in physical co-location) and "interacting together" (i.e., building relationships).

With my "new" understanding of these words, it became clear to me that we can all take advantage of existing multi-generational and intergenerational gathering places and break away from our age-specific silos. Interacting together isn't hard!

If we share common interests like cooking, reading, gardening, exercising, theatre, painting, etc., we will likely find ways to identify with each other and communicate regardless of age or background. These interactions will help promote a greater understanding and respect between all generations and perhaps enrich community life.

So, while you are out and about, take a mental inventory of the places you visit each day and notice if they are mono-generational, multi-generational or intergenerational. Remember the emphasis of intergenerational is not only "being together" (i.e., in physical co-location) but also "interacting together" (i.e., building relationships).

I invite you to begin to create more intergenerational connections throughout your week. For some of us, this might mean stepping out of our comfort zone a little bit, but who knows, you just might make a new friend or two along the way. With the number of people 60+ expected to equal the number of people under 18 by 2030, creating a community #ForAllAges is essential.




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