Fostering Resilience through Intergenerational Connections

​CIC’s Intergenerational Connections: Students Serving Older Adults project, which began in 2016 with the support of the AARP Foundation, has created a national network of programs on independent college campuses. The network has provided students with opportunities to help low-income older adults (ages 50 and older) tackle key life challenges while acquiring valuable service learning and co-curricular experience. During the 2017–2018, 2018–2019, and 2019–2020 academic years, nearly 1,000 students studying at 43 institutions served approximately 4,000 low-income older adults in their campus communities.

The project’s four main goals included:

  • Identifying and serving needs of older adults in college and university communities, particularly in the areas of social isolation, housing, hunger, and/or income generation;
  • Helping college students develop new skills and knowledge;
  • Increasing student retention at independent colleges and universities through service learning; and
  • Developing a national network of student programs that recognize the mutual benefits of intergenerational connections.

The project concluded with the “Fostering Resilience through Intergenerational Connections” conference that took place July 29–31, 2019, in Washington, DC. Importantly, the teams of project participants brought together faculty and staff members with students and representatives from partnering community organizations to allow teams to discuss the results of their projects. Participants also sought solutions to common problems faced by students, faculty, staff, and older adults in project development; identified best practices in creating and sustaining programs; and discussed ways to maximize student learning and engagement through interaction with older adults.

This report summarizes the challenges, best practices, and lessons learned throughout the two-and-a-half year Intergenerational Connections project, including those discussed during the “Fostering Resilience through Intergenerational Connections” conference. The report is divided into six sections:

  1. Building Intergenerational Connections—What the Council of Independent Colleges learned about the effective development of programs that facilitate interaction between college students and low-income older adults;
  2. AARP Foundation and CIC Priorities—The four distinct challenges addressed by the Intergenerational Connections project;
  3. Strategies to Achieve AARP Priorities—Strategies that participating institutions implemented to address the AARP Foundation priorities;
  4. Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned—Challenges and problematic situations participants faced and how they addressed those challenges, as well as the lessons they learned during the development and throughout the course of the projects;
  5. Financial Sustainability—Factors institutions should consider to develop a financially sustainable intergenerational program in their campus communities; and
  6. A Final Word—A compilation of reports from project faculty and staff members of what students and older adults learned from their experiences with this project.
View the report.

​Council of Independent Colleges
Barbara Hetrick and Kelsey A. Sherman Creech
April 2020

Academic Experience