Social Support Among Older Adults
The new phrase that has been coined to describe the increasing population of or elderly citizens is The Graying of America. The boomer generation is getting older and the need for quality health care is growing at an alarming rate. Along with this growth of demand in health care, programs and activities for the aging population need to be enhanced. A beneficial way to improve activities and entertainment is to involve the youth of our society. Multigenerational activities will increase the quality of life for the elderly in care communities and retirement homes.
Research is being completed that proves the integration of multigenerational programs in care facilities promote health and happiness. Care programs that are being developed that involve the interaction between the elderly and young children have shown to reduce depression in the aging patients. There is a video available from PBS that interviews participants that are involved in intergenerational programs.
"Boredom and loneliness at sort of the plagues of older adults. There's nothing more delightful than seeing young children with noise, with laughter. You see the residents, and they hear the sound of the kids coming down the hall, and it's as though sunlight just came through the window." (NewsHour, PBS)
Not only do the older patients gain the benefits from being involved in the growth of young minds, the younger participants are gaining wisdom that cannot be taught in schools. This type of knowledge and love must be passed down from generations.
The wisdom that can be absorbed by young minds is an untapped resource. Combining the need for childcare programs with the lack of adult care programs is a win-win situation. Activities can be tailored to provide the needed interaction between the generations. The kids and adults can team up to work on projects such as planting flowers or preparing simple meals.
"He's operating on my plain, and I'm operating on his plain, and so we have an attachment. He helped me, and we were working together." (NewsHour, PBS)
The synergy between young and old partners is one as old as time itself, it is how generations have survived and prospered for centuries.
Combining elderly and youth care facilities opens up learning possibilities for all that are involved. The job opportunities for care workers could be expanded. Imaging being able to take your young kids to work and they play with their great-grandparents all day. The financial burden of care could be mediated if a person's children and their own parents were in the same day care. The consolidation of care facilities also provided a research base for researchers to observe and survey participants in real time, and not just for a once a year interaction. Researcher Jenny Chung developed such a program with youth volunteers and elderly dementia patients with great results. Patients emotional states improved significantly from pre and post testing.
"The intergenerational reminiscence programme suggests mutually beneficial values for both groups of participants." (Chung)
These types of multigenerational programs are a way to give the elderly a renewed sense of worth and are openings for new learning experiences for children. They are also a great way to provide purpose in the lives of older children that do not normally experience a nuclear family dynamic.
The research project done by Jenny Chung was successful based on the youth volunteers that she had. There was a ratio of 2 youth to every 1 elderly person, and the younger volunteers were in a school age group. With the positive outcome of the research project, there are many different options that could be discovered with older kids. These types of intergenerational programs could lead to involvement with foster care, big brothers big sisters, and other programs that are available to children that do not have the typical family surrounding them. These programs can fill a void that other small interactions cannot.
"Older adults are exceptionally suited to meet these needs in part because they welcome meaningful, productive activity, and engagement, "the researchers wrote. "They seek-and need-purpose in their lives." (McGuire)
Research has determined that aging adults are the best group to impart wisdom on the younger generations, yet the elder societies are not always available to children. The traditional family dynamic is changing, and children are not living close to older relatives.
The decline of the typical nuclear family is leading to increased cases of depression in elderly patients as they experience a lack of interaction with their kin. Families are having to make the hard decision to move further away from older relatives for work and school. They are packing up the younger kids and leaving behind elderly parents and grandparents. These older family members are left on their own or moved into communities where they are surrounded by others the same age.
" our society is more generationally stratified than ever before, making the elderly feel particularly alienated" (McGuire)
These feelings of alienation are contributing to the depression of the retirement crowds and leading to declining health and earlier deaths. Ashley McGuire has seen this firsthand in her studies and believes that the loneliness being forced on our older generations is a health hazard. The introduction of new programs involving children and properly trained staff could greatly improve the life quality and mental health of the patients.
The majority of care facilities are age based, and therefore the majority of personnel in these facilities are trained for a specific age group.
" to date most practice methods in the health and human services are explicitly organized by age." (Fredricksen-Goldsen)
Classes are being taught to care for the elderly and others on how to care for the youth of society. New programs being introduced will lead to new responsibilities and increased training. They also open up a possibility of new jobs created for multigenerational program directors and staff. The instruction of care will need to be significantly expanded, from pediatric to geriatric and everything in between. There is much to learn about in regard to intergenerational facilities and programs, and it is a new concept.
The study of multigenerational programs is relatively fresh in research communities. It is currently being evaluated in care facilities and communities. With the current greying of America, it is common to have multiple generations living within the same communities.
"Because the global population is aging significantly, the number of generations within families is increasing over entire regions of the world" (Fredricksen-Goldsen)
These communities provide unlimited potential for research by individuals that want to learn more about intergenerational interactions. This contributes to exceptional leads on participants of the study and help in the early stages of development.
"This pioneering field encompasses a range of topics, including intervention programs designed to foster connections between generations and cross-generational approaches to individual, familial, and community development." (Fredricksen-Goldsen)
The ability to reference people that actively live a multigenerational lifestyle and apply that knowledge to care facility programs will be beneficial to everyone involved, from researcher to child to program developer to elders. The ability to learn something new can transverse generations and be used in all walks of life.
The greying of America should not be thought of as negative, but as a change in social dynamics that should be addressed. The knowledge that is provided to the youth of today will in fact be imparted on the youth of tomorrow. This goes beyond traditions and family gatherings and leads into improving the lives of the people that are in our communities. Cross- generation participation will enhance the lives of everyone involved and close the widening gap between the living generations. Change is inevitable, and the does not need to be a bad thing. The development of multigenerational care programs can reunite the generations and build a strong future for our children. Especially if the foundation of our future is being built with Lincoln Logs in the community room of an elderly care facility.
Chung, Jenny C. C. "An Intergenerational Reminiscence Programme for Older Adults with Early Dementia and Youth Volunteers: Values and Challenges." Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences
London, Susan. "Caregiving in Multigenerational Homes." Social Work Today, Great Valley Publishing Company
George, Daniel R. "Intergenerational Volunteering and Quality of Life: Mixed Methods Evaluation of a Randomized Control Trial Involving Persons with Mild to Moderate Dementia." Quality of Life Research
Fredriksen-Goldsen, and Karen I. "Multigenerational Health, Development, and Equality." OUP Academic, Oxford University Press
McGuire, Ashley. "Toddlers and Seniors Together: The Benefits of Intergenerational Care." Institute for Family Studies
Zinn, Linda. "What generation gap? (Special Feature)." Nursing Homes Jan. 2002: 26+. Business Insights: Global. Web
NewsHour, PBS. "What Happens When a Nursing Home and a Day Care Center Share a Roof?" PBS, Public Broadcasting Service