Benefits of Intergenerational Relationships

Discover more about how encouraging intergenerational relationships can benefit all involved.

Intergenerational care is all about purposefully bringing together different generations and providing opportunities for them to take part in ongoing activities together and to share experiences that are mutually beneficial.

Social and economic changes have made it more difficult for grandparents to have regular and active relationships with their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, with distance and work commitments often creating difficult boundaries.

Connecting children and older people has been proven to have a positive impact on both parties. The implementation of intergenerational programs - such as that between nurseries and care homes - can create valuable relationships.

Taking part in intergenerational activities such as social engagements and interactions, bring together younger and older generations for a common purpose. These activities build on the strengths that different generations have to offer, as well as nurture understanding, respect, and challenge ageism. Intergenerational care can give everyone involved a sense of ownership and a chance to have fun with people they might not normally socialise with.

Here are just a few of the benefits of intergenerational care for both the elderly and children.

Benefits for the Elderly:

  • Companionship - helping to combat depression and loneliness.
  • A sense of purpose - the opportunity to share wisdom and experiences.
  • Mental stimulation - having a change of pace to daily life and keeping the brain active can help to improve mental health and dementia.
  • Physical stimulation - the energy and activity of young children can help encourage more physical movements, generally making the adults more mobile and improving their strength.
  • Young children are often the least prejudiced in society so for those who are disabled or suffering from dementia, it can help them to see themselves as just another person.
  • Some older people who might not have been able to have children or grandchildren of their own get to experience that close relationship with a young child.

Benefits for Children:

  • Encourages communication and social skills.
  • Develops language and reading through shared activities.
  • Increases confidence and self-esteem.
  • Helps develop empathy, care, and kindness, helping them to understand and talk more positively about aging and old people.
  • Improves understanding of disability.
  • Learn and develop respect - many children spend less time around their grandparents than in previous generations and so it's important for them to meet and understand older people. Any child meeting an older person will need to respect the boundaries and limitations of their new friend.
  • Develop a sense of responsibility - building a new relationship is a big responsibility for anyone, but perhaps more so when it's with someone who might be vulnerable and isolated in the community. If a child is paired up with an elderly person, they will have the opportunity to share stories, and participate in activities and games together, giving them the responsibility of companionship and exploring a unique friendship.
  • Spending time with an older person can help to ground a child's idea of time and place, as they experience someone with a longer history of the world. They can learn about the past, different generations, local history, community, and more!

For children who don't have an active relationship with their grandparents, meeting an elderly person for the first time could be overwhelming, similarly, the reverse is true. Treating these new relationships tentatively if necessary, and with respect from supporting adults, nursery workers, or carers, can be vital to their success.

Older people often seek - and need - purpose in their lives, younger children love attention, and they both need stimulation to thrive. So really, intergenerational care is the perfect activity.