The importance of intergenerational bonding

Article written by Vickie LeFlore, Positive Youth Development Extension Educator. 
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

According to a June 2016 Stanford Report, “When older adults contribute to the well-being of youth, it cultivates a sense of purpose and extends benefits both ways.”

In a world where everyone seems to be very busy, oftentimes the aging population can be forgotten.

Some aging adults don’t have many opportunities to engage emotionally and socially, especially with youth.

Building or sustaining positive relationships with grandparents or other older adults is valuable and can have a lasting impact on both generations.

Relationship building and communication between older and younger individuals can help to dismiss stereotypes and encourage honest, open communication.

Additionally, these bonds and relationships can foster lifelong lessons and cherished memories.

Alternative to medication?

In an effort to improve the quality of life and strengthen the relationship among young people and the aging population, some studies are exploring target intergenerational programming as an alternative to medication for some aging populations facing depression and dementia.

In an August 2017 study by Pacific University, one group of elderly participants showed a decrease in depression and an increase in self-rated mental health when they were exposed to intergenerational programming.

Benefits for youth

For youth, there are also meaningful benefits from intergenerational connections.

Some research has suggested that youth improve academically.

In addition, some research has shown changes in attitudes and their perception of older adults due to the connection between youth and older adults.

Forms of engagement

There are many ways to engage youth and establish meaningful connections with older adults.

Older adults are important and major contributors to the growth and development of youth because of their life experiences.

Youth interaction and support can be mutually beneficial to the emotional livelihood of the aging population.

Some ways to engage generations:

Provide family stories, rituals, and genealogical history (share first-hand family history).

Prepare a favorite meal (cook a traditional family dish together).

Teach each other a new skill (knitting or how to use a new tech gadget).

Spend time reading together (pick up a book at the local library, read and discuss it together).

Play board games (set aside time and play your favorite board/card game/online game).

Explore Kenosha County 4-H (attend/join a club).

Plant a garden during the summer (grow your own fruits and vegetables).

Cultural exchange (share life experiences).

Older adults are a great resource for providing advice and emotional support to youth.

Quality time

One key to successful youth and older-adult relationships is investing in quality time. Fostering generational connections assists in valuing a different generational perspective and building a stronger overall community.

Establishing intergenerational relationships allows both groups to learn about each other’s differences and similarities while building relational capacity and a sense of fulfillment.

Social bonding can support youth and aging adults through a variety of enjoyable activities that encourage and engage both groups.

To find out more about programs through UW-Extension and various opportunities, browse our website at