About This Report

​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.

How to Use the Report

This report is intended to be a useful tool for individuals at colleges and universities who are interested in developing new intergenerational projects or expanding or improving existing programs. Faculty and staff members, students, and staff at community partner organizations should find the report to be an easily accessible reference to help solve problems and generate new ideas.

CIC learned quickly that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for developing effective and sustainable intergenerational partnerships. This observation is exemplified in the report’s many illustrations of programs developed by participating institutions.

Sections Two through Six can be read as a group, in order, or individually. For this reason, we have deliberately incorporated a certain amount of redundancy into the sections. For example, the report describes projects that address CIC and AARP priorities in Section Two. It then cites examples of the various strategies that the colleges and universities adopted to address those priorities in Section Three. Some projects are used as both a good example of addressing a priority and of a particular strategy taken in the same project.

In other words, this report can be read as a complete report on the development of a national program of a consortium of higher education institution projects aimed at improving intergenerational connections. Alternatively, it can be used as reference to be consulted at various phases of program development or during the course of program implementation.

Short descriptions of each participating institution’s project are included in a directory of projects. The descriptions include contact information for the faculty or staff member(s) who had primary responsibility for an institution’s Intergenerational Connections project. Readers can reach out to these experienced colleagues as resources as they develop their own projects. Each colleague has knowledge about developing intergenerational activities and would be happy to discuss the projects and best practices with others.

Council of Independent Colleges
Barbara Hetrick, Senior Advisor and Former Senior Vice President
Kelsey A. Sherman Creech, Executive Assistant to the President and Assistant Secretary, Board of Directors

April 2020

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

Origins and Objectives of the Project

AARP was founded in 1958 as the American Association of Retired Persons to promote the concept of productive aging and advocate for health insurance for retired teachers. In 1984, membership was opened to all Americans over the age of 50, and in 1999 its name was changed to AARP to reflect the change that members neither must be 50 years of age and older nor even retired. The organization now says that it is dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as people age through both positive social change and “the value it delivers to members through information, advocacy, and service.” (Wikipedia AARP)

The AARP Foundation is AARP’s charitable affiliate that serves people 50 years of age and older by supporting efforts to improve their lives. In its own words, the foundation operates “at the intersection of collaboration, innovation, legal advocacy and grantmaking by bringing together industry, government, activists, and volunteers to forge practical approaches that pair brainpower with some serious willpower.” AARP, grants, and contributions support the work of the foundation.

In 2016, AARP Foundation President Lisa Marsh Ryerson and CIC President Richard Ekman worked together with members of their staffs to envision a project that would create a network of programs at independent colleges and universities that promote interaction between college students and older adults and lead to improvements in the adults’ lives. Ryerson, formerly president of Wells College (NY), was well aware of other successful programs CIC had organized with foundation support. Although Ekman suspected that there would be strong interest in such a project among member institutions, CIC first wanted to be certain that the level of interest and infrastructure at its colleges and universities were sufficient to justify the resources that such an undertaking would demand. The subsequent responses were sufficiently numerous and programmatically diverse to support development of a proposal for a pilot program.

In fall 2016, CIC developed a proposal for a three-year project that would identify the institutions most likely to contribute actively toward the development of a national network of programs on independent college and university campuses. This network would increase the number of programs available in independent colleges and universities in which students interact with older adults in the community to address the challenges faced by low-income older adults. The network also would increase the number of college students who participate actively in these programs, initiating programmatic ideas and sharing their time, abilities, knowledge, and spirit to assist older adults. The number of older citizens who benefit from these programs would increase accordingly.

CIC hoped that those college students and the faculty members who work with them to identify and serve important needs among older adults in their communities would become incubators of both innovative programming and engagement between community institutions and the older adults who need their help and companionship. CIC also wanted to help college students develop the skills and knowledge that will enhance their personal and professional lives by providing experiential educational activities with older adults. Importantly, CIC also hoped that the older adults would share with students their experience, wisdom, and perspectives on life. Together, CIC and the AARP Foundation knew that achievement of these goals, including enhanced student learning and meaningful involvement with other students and the “real life community,” would lead to greater retention of the students through graduation.

Eventually, this project aimed to create a compendium of successful programs from which interested college and university organizations could select to serve their own communities. The successful programs would be those developed according to validated principles of social change, based on needs analyses and other research conducted in the community, and grounded in best practices identified in the research literature.

Selection of Cohorts for the Project

The program, Intergenerational Connections: Students Serving Older Adults, would award grants for the 2017–2018 academic year to approximately 20 selected member institutions for student stipends to create or expand undergraduate student service projects focused on intergenerational interaction with low-income older adults in the institutions’ communities. The projects would be grounded in coursework or be strictly extra-curricular and led by faculty members, staff, or student peers.

CIC received an overwhelming response. Ninety-two colleges and universities from 33 different states submitted 93 proposals to engage students in work with older adults in their communities. The proposed projects included support for campus/community gardens, fall prevention for older adults who live independently, home repairs, technology classes, oral histories, and work with adults in memory care. Twenty-one institutions from 16 states received grants to support their Intergenerational Connections projects during 2017–2018.

CIC solicited proposals for a second cohort of Intergenerational Connections projects in fall 2017 for project activities in the 2018–2019 academic year. CIC and AARP Foundation staff selected a second cohort of 14 renewal grants and 22 new grantees to participate in a 2018–2019 iteration of the project. The parameters for both the renewal grants and the new grants for the 2018–2019 cohort were essentially the same as the project’s pilot in 2017–2018.

Building Community among Participating Institutions

Through its many years of developing complex projects, CIC has learned that the most effective projects build a sense of community among its participants. Participants learn to trust one another’s knowledge, advice, and experience, which ultimately contributes to a strong network of programs across the country.

Online Community

In this case, CIC staff developed an online community of program participants in which they engaged in discussions of their projects, best practices, challenges, and ways to address their problems. Most importantly, the online community platform provided institutional participants across the county with an opportunity to seek advice from their peers working on similar projects and to post and share documents they developed for their projects. The platform also provided CIC with an opportunity to share important information with project participants on a regular basis and to share questions addressed specifically to CIC with all project participants.


CIC offered three informational and participatory webinars for each project cohort. The first included an overview of AARP, review of the project goals, introduction to grant reporting requirements, and best practices in grant reporting and data collection. The second Intergenerational Connections webinar provided project participants time to discuss project successes, challenges, and opportunities with their colleagues at other participating institutions in a less structured setting. Project staff asked participants to come prepared to share their experiences from the first semester with the other institutions participating in the project. The resulting conversation was both robust and informative. The final online conversation for both cohorts provided an opportunity for participants to talk directly with one another in a free-flowing discussion. Participants were exceptionally engaged during the webinar and reported that they took a great deal of information away from the conversations with their colleagues at other institutions. Among the topics discussed during the webinar were data collection—tools for data collection, frequency of collecting data, type of data collection, and ways to measure impact; identification of partners and participants; risk management; and project sustainability.

CIC posted recordings of all webinars on CIC’s Vimeo page and shared a link to the videos with all members of the online community. CIC also encouraged participating faculty and staff members to share the webinars (or the outcomes of the webinar discussions) with their students and community partner colleagues who might be interested.

National Conference

A national conference, Fostering Resilience through Intergenerational Connections,took place in July 2019 in Washington, DC. The conference drew teams of up to four people from 41 participating institutions in both cohorts of the project. The teams included faculty and staff members as well as some students and representatives from partnering community organizations. PDFDownload the conference program.

In addition to panels of participants sharing the lessons they learned from two years’ experience, there were well attended breakfast and luncheon discussions. Concurrent sessions addressed various approaches to food insecurity, social isolation, dealing with income insecurity and scams that target older adults, and creating safe housing to enable aging in place. The conference also featured speakers who addressed intergenerational connections and their benefits for both college students and older adults in their communities. Appropriately, Lisa Marsh Ryerson delivered the conference’s keynote remarks. She was effusive in her praise of the work that the participants had accomplished: “Know that I was inspired by your stories of our colleges as anchors of the importance of intergenerational connections.” She emphasized that in a time of great divisions in our society that pit one group against another, intergenerational projects are helping to break down tired assumptions about both older adults and college students.

Continuing that theme, Marc Freedman, CEO and president of Encore, offered a fact-filled account of the history of the generations. At the beginning of the 20th century, he said, our society was “age oblivious and age integrated.” Over time and for some uplifting reasons (such as passing child labor laws), age segregation took over; older people became rejected, marginalized, and alienated. He urged the group to reimagine a world in which age is irrelevant, one in which we shift our concern from extending life expectancy and remaining youthful to improving relations among the generations in ways that benefit all generations.

Executive Director of Generations United and a speaker at the conference, Donna Butts, observed that she has seen a decline in higher education’s involvement with intergenerational work and applauded the CIC colleges and universities that are playing a key role in defining and elevating promising intergenerational practices. She invited all participants to become involved with Generations United’s efforts to connect with leaders of all generations to build connections for a more caring society. Asserting that both younger and older populations are great untapped resources, she offered hope that “people are starting to wake up and smell the demographics.”

Two other sessions focused on the many benefits for college students of interacting with older generations. Jillian Kinzie, associate director of the Center for Postsecondary Research and the National Survey of Student Engagement Institute of Indiana University, emphasized the importance of providing equitable, high-quality educational experiences that enhance student learning, success, and career readiness. She offered advice on how the institutions’ intergenerational projects could become even more effective vehicles for desired student outcomes: They should include transparent expectations that are aligned with specific outcomes, clear pathways, opportunities for integration and reflection, and educational practices that engage students at high levels.

Perhaps the most engaging session of the conference was offered by five students, all participants in an intergenerational program at a CIC institution. The student panel demonstrated the efficacy of Kinzie’s advice for curricular planning. While the approaches to addressing the vulnerabilities of older adults used in their institutions’ projects varied considerably—including storytelling, food preparation, occupational and physical therapy, and sharing uses of technology—the students were all enthusiastic about their experiences and articulated how important their work with older adults had been to their growth and development as students and citizens. The experience has led some of the students to plan careers working with older adults and even to change majors.

Five students presenting while seated at a table
Intergenerational Connections student panelists at the national conference from Calvin University (MI), Converse College (SC), Shenandoah University (VA), Jarvis Christian College (TX), and Wofford College (SC) discussed approaches they used to address the vulnerabilities of low-income older adults.

CIC staff observed that participants in this conference were remarkably enthusiastic about the opportunity to meet others with similarly focused projects. For example, Gloria Wade Gayles, founding director of Spelman College’s (GA) Independent Scholars’ Oral History Project, wrote: “The conference changed my life in more ways than I can articulate. In fact, I was so moved by every presentation and every experience that I talked too much. My cup of joy for information ran over and over….”

During the conference and in the weeks and months that followed, CIC received anecdotal reports from the institutions participating in the Intergenerational Connections project about the value of the project to the campus and its community. At least one institution has indicated that it is exploring adding an additional field of study related to the program to its academic curriculum as a result of the project, its lessons and attractiveness for students and faculty members, and its value to older members of the community. Several participating institutions also have reported that they are in conversations with local and national foundations and alumnae about the possibility of receiving additional funding to support continued project activities.

CIC and AARP Foundation Priorities

​The four distinct areas of need addressed by the Intergenerational Connections project

At the beginning of this century, American society was, in the words of Marc Freedman, CEO and president of Encore, “age oblivious” and “thoroughly integrated intergenerationally.” Over time, and for some very good reasons, such as the abolition of child labor, we moved away from age integration toward a radically age segregated society. We also increasingly came to value youth and to marginalize or entirely reject the value of old age and older people. Rather than taking advantage of what older Americans have learned through their lives to benefit the next generations, we have embraced youth and its attributes.

At the same time, American culture has looked to extend life expectancy and further the age and experience of the generations. Is there any wonder, then, why both older adults and young people so often feel lonely and alienated from our institutions and other people? Working with the AARP Foundation, CIC took a step toward improving relations among the generations rather than toward extending the length of everyone’s life in a culture that largely separates the generations in housing, recreation, work, and community.

To do so, CIC developed a national network of projects designed to provide students with improved educational and social opportunities while serving the needs of low-income older adults across the country. The project addressed four key areas of need for low-income older adults identified by the AARP Foundation—reducing social isolation and increasing interconnectedness, ensuring safe and affordable housing, guaranteeing nutritious and affordable diets, and creating opportunities for income generation.

The 43 institutions that participated in the Intergenerational Connections project addressed one or more of the four areas of need in ways that worked best for its institution, students, and community members. Although there were synergies among approaches to address the older adults’ areas of need (see “Strategies to Address AARP Priorities”), each was unique to the institution, its community, and the community-based organizations that became their partners. What follows are some examples of projects that address the priorities selected by the AARP Foundation and adopted by CIC.

Reducing Social Isolation and Increasing Interconnectedness

The first priority set forth by the AARP Foundation is the reduction of social isolation of older adults by increasing their interconnectedness with others. According to the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, 27 percent of adults ages 50 to 80 feel socially isolated. AARP’s PDFLoneliness and Social Connections: A National Survey of Adults 45 and Older report notes that loneliness contributes to physical isolation, increased instances of anxiety and depression, and more likelihood of obesity.

Somewhat less well known is that college students share loneliness and its negative consequences for good health. Faculty and staff members at colleges and universities across the United States report that increasing numbers of students face feelings of loneliness and depression. These feelings sometimes lead to abuse of drugs or alcohol, self-abuse, and thoughts of suicide.

Often, students are away from family and friends for the first time in their lives and find living independently difficult and alienating. They are in new and sometimes strange situations with different norms for behavior. Unsurprisingly, the PDFAmerican College Health Association found that 23 percent of college students surveyed in 2017 had felt very lonely at some point in the previous 12 months.

As one recent Medium article reported, “To put it bluntly, the former U.S. Surgeon General stated that social isolation is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.” Many of the Intergenerational Connections projects focused exclusively on the reduction of social isolation among older adult community members. (To learn more about the projects focused on addressing social isolation, see “Strategies to Address AARP Priorities.”) However, the reduction of social isolation and increased interconnectedness was an inherent part of all the projects. The very design of the project brought college students and older adults together as they spent time working on shared project activities. Project directors regularly reported that both college students and the older adults with whom they worked with looked forward to their time together. They also reported that students developed strong, long-lasting relationships with the older adults. Some students and older adults even characterized their relationships as a “grandchild-grandparent type” relationship.

Although each institutional project addressed social isolation in its own way, several distinct models were used to address the issue, including projects that engaged technology to connect older adults with their family members and friends and projects that fostered new meaningful relationships. (More examples can be found in “Strategies to Achieve AARP Priorities.”)

Jarvis Christian College (TX) worked to bridge the gap between generations by enhancing the older adults’ capabilities with modern technology and improved their emotional wellness through recreational and educational activities. Among the positive results of their efforts were strong relationships between community members and Jarvis Christian College students that led to measurable reductions in the adults’ prior feelings of social isolation.

Coe College (IA) students met weekly with their older adult partners in one-on-one and group settings. They held conversations, went to the movies, and engaged in arts and crafts projects. The students and older adults both benefited from the relationships, and the older adults reported looking forward to the time they spent with the students. One older adult partner said, “The match has been wonderful and my student is delightful. She feels like a granddaughter to me now. I like being there for her.”

Several institutions implemented oral history projects as a way to share stories, experiences, and lessons and foster relationships between students and older adults. California Baptist University and University of Saint Francis (IN) used innovative models to engage community members and to share their stories with individuals both on and off-campus. California Baptist University’s students established strong relationships with older adults in a historically Hispanic community near campus and then worked with them to develop oral histories that were showcased at events on campus and in the community. University of St. Francis students held a series of intensive interactions over the course of a year with older adults and then recorded interviews in which the adults shared their life experiences. The interviews were shared with the larger community as part of a weekly radio show and online.

Older adult speaks with four students seated at a roundtable
Students from California Baptist University listened to an older adult during an event hosted as part of the institution’s “The Legacy Project.” (Photo provided by California Baptist University.)

Ensuring Safe and Affordable Housing

Following AARP’s priorities, CIC supported colleges and universities interested in helping to ensure that older adult neighbors’ housing was safe and affordable. Many older adults are choosing to “age in place” rather than move to housing developments or apartments designed for people ages 55 and older. This is partly because of the high cost of moving but mostly because the older adults are most comfortable staying where they are. AARP reports that 76 percent of Americans age 50 and older say that they would prefer to remain in their current residence as long as possible, and 77 percent would like to live in their community as long as possible. With the large number of older adults expressing these preferences, it is critically important that organizations, neighbors, and family members help ensure that they remain safe in their spaces.

Several institutions participating in the Intergenerational Connections project worked to mitigate the risk of older neighbors falling in their own homes and developed strategies to help older adults improve their balance and other physical abilities that might keep them safer while aging in place.

In a project at Concordia University Wisconsin a registered nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, pharmacist, and students in these health professions along with a medical anthropologist/clinical ethnographer developed a protocol for in-home assessment of the risk of falls, medication safety, and mental health for older adults receiving Meals on Wheels. The project incorporates a holistic approach to improving the quality of life and well-being for older adults living independently.

Undergraduate nursing students at Holy Names University (CA) conducted health and environmental assessments to identify the needs of older adults and to learn about the life challenges and barriers facing low-income older adults in their community. Within the community health framework approved by the California Board of Nursing, each student provided older adults with an in-depth assessment in four areas: home safety; health and medical care; psychosocial support resources; and information technology. Students also completed 90 clinical hours, kept clinical journals documenting their interactions with older adults, participated in classroom discussions reflecting on their clinical experience, and prepared a summative report with recommendations to improve interactions with older adults.

Meredith College (NC) students conducted multi-visit, in-home falls prevention intervention to administer home safety checks and teach older adults a simple, in-home exercise routine to improve their balance. They also developed an exercise training video to help new students work with the “aging in place” adults. One student is analyzing the data collected from the project to see if there are factors that can be used to predict which older adults will benefit from the interventions designed to make living independently possible.

Health Science Occupational Therapy students at Springfield College (MA) developed a “Home and Healthy Happenings Manual,” a guide for future students to use to work with older adults living at home to be safe and to secure donations of equipment needed to help reduce the risk of falling. A second set of students visited adults in their homes, engaging in conversations and leisure activities and applying the guidelines developed by the first group of students. They also helped the adults with home modification and taught them some skills with digital devices so that that could reach out for help if they needed it.

Guaranteeing Nutritious and Affordable Diets

Good nutrition and affordable diets are of critical importance to the long-term health of low-income older adults. Instances of food insecurity, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and other diet-related illnesses are prevalent among older adults. PDF The State of Senior Hunger in America 2017: An Annual Report noted that nearly 5.5 million adults ages 60 and older were food insecure in 2017. Furthermore, Emily Allen, senior vice president of programs for the AARP Foundation, commented last year that more than 10 million older adults are at risk of hunger every day. In fact, older adults who are food insecure are significantly more likely to suffer from diabetes and congestive heart failure than their peers who have regular and predictable meals.

Intergenerational Connections projects that focused on guaranteeing nutritious and affordable diets provided both college students and older adults with the opportunity to gather around meals and share their stories, discuss nutrition, shop for groceries, and contribute to their own health and to the well-being of others. College students and older adults worked side by side in community gardens, kitchens, and dinner tables, and they shared valuable information about healthy and inexpensive meals.

Campbell University (NC), Pfeiffer University (NC), and Wheeling University (WV) all implemented community garden projects that allowed older adults and students to work together in the garden and that also provided low-income older adults with fresh produce at no cost. It is worth noting that the students and older adults worked side by side in the gardens as equal partners. In some instances accommodations were developed so that the gardens were accessible to older adults with mobility difficulties.

Three older adults prepare for a garden project
Older adults participating in Pfeiffer University’s (NC) community garden project work in the greenhouse. (Photo provided by Pfeiffer University.)

The College of St. Rose (NY) students helped their older adult partners by making food deliveries from a local food pantry to their partners who were food insecure. They also gathered for community meals and socialized in the building lobby on food delivery days.

Dominican University (IL) students prepared various educational materials and information boards on nutrition, resources to decrease stress, meal planning for older adults, appropriate fluid intake, and nutritious snacks. They shared this information with day care center participants, their families, and day care center staff members, and they shared the results of their project with the entire university community.

Three students post beside their information board
Dominican University (IL) students prepared information boards on a number of health and wellness topics to help older adults in the community, in this case to remind them of the importance of fluid intake. (Photo provided by Dominican University.)

For two years, Whitman College (WA) students met with older adults for weekly cooking classes. Working with the chef at a local senior center, students developed menus and weekly lessons that focused on cooking skills for those who may not have had any cooking experience. The students also discussed efficient grocery shopping and how to develop well-balanced meals.

Creating Opportunities for Income Generation

The final priority area addressed by the Intergenerational Connections project was creating opportunities for older adults to generate income. According to the National Council on Aging, over 25 million Americans aged 60 and over are economically insecure; they live on $29,425 or less per person per year. Furthermore, older adults have become a prominent target for a number of scams, including online and telephone frauds, that seek to gain their money or credit unlawfully. Students in several CIC institutions worked with older adults to increase awareness of “phishing” scams, help prepare income tax returns, develop financial plans for a sustainable future, and learn how to use the internet to look and apply for jobs.

Virginia Wesleyan University’s primary activity was a series of presentations to older community members that encouraged cybersecurity and identified hallmarks of phishing activities with the goal of making the adults more aware of these scams and how to avoid being victimized by them.

Elizabethtown College (PA) students learned about generational poverty and partnered with older adults to provide personalized training on internet skills to find employment, identify and access social support programs, and recognize and avoid online scams.

8-photo collage of students with older adults
Students at Elizabethtown College (PA) provided personal training for their older adult partners on internet skills development and on avoiding online scams. (Photos provided by Elizabethtown College.)

Strategies to Achieve AARP Priorities

​Strategies implemented by the Intergenerational Connections project participants to address the AARP Foundation priorities

Participating institutions developed many strategies to achieve the priorities set by the AARP Foundation and adopted by this CIC project. Some institutions used similar strategies to achieve different goals while others used alternative strategies to target the same objectives. This section of the report identifies some of the more successful strategies.

Using Technology

Bridgewater College (VA) surveyed the residents of a retirement community to identify programming topics that would be of interest to them and then offered seminars and activities on those topics. Their Helping Hands project included seminars on nutrition and raised bed gardening. Particularly successful, however, were the technology seminars that addressed maintaining connections with residents’ friends and family through social media and texting. Although some residents had to be taught how to turn on a computer, by the end of the training 70 percent indicated that maintaining ties with family and friends was a skill they had learned from the sessions with students. A bonus was that the center then announced that the internet was being provided to all residents along with an iPad for their use.

To help reduce feelings of isolation among residents of a HUD-assisted senior housing unit, students at Caldwell University (NJ) established relationships with the residents. Once good rapport and trust were developed, the students guided the older adult as they learned to set up and use personal computers, tablets, smart phones, and email accounts to access health-related information and improve their health and well-being. The students also worked together to create a private Facebook page to maintain their interaction.

Mindful of the social isolation felt by many older adults, students at Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University (LA) helped older adults in their community connect with the broader world through technology. The students offered technology classes that discussed the use of mobile devices, texting, email, social media, educational YouTube videos, and other online resources.

Students at Jarvis Christian College (TX) implemented a series of six-week technology courses along with weekly recreational and educational activities for low-income older adults. Among other skills, the adults learned how to track monthly bills using Excel.

Rust College’s (MS) Students Teaching Elders Technology Skills (STETS) Program provided instruction to older adults to help them learn technological skills that will enhance their ability to communicate using the computer and smart telephone. The students are trained to give meaningful instruction on innovative ways to use the internet, text message, email, and social networks. The students also brought the older adults to campus for various cultural events.

Student and older adult work on a smartphone
A Rust College (MS) intergenerational team works on developing technology skills such as using a smartphone. (Photo provided by Rust College.)

Building Relationships

Students at Bay Path University (MA) developed “memory kits” that gave structure to one-on-one visits with local assisted-living residents. Students reported an increase in their comfort interacting with older adults and increased communication skills, and the older adults indicated strong support for and enjoyment of their interaction with college students.

Centenary University (NJ) students, volunteers, faculty, and staff participated in several programs to mentor and learn from older adults. One group of first-year students visited a local nursing and rehabilitation home, where they shared stories, life histories, and games. Other student groups visited and shared games with residents of a nursing home, a camp for children and adults with disabilities, and a senior center.

Christian Brothers University (TN) students engaged nearly 300 older adult clients of three different community organizations in such activities as cooking classes, developing a sensory garden for people with dementia, preparing tax returns, and presenting suggestions for reducing stress.

Coe College (IA) students could engage with older adults for either academic credit or a stipend. Students had weekly conversations between socially isolated low-income older adults and college students and group activities so that both groups would develop a stronger sense of belonging. Students brought older adults with whom they were paired to campus for various athletic and fine arts events; older adult partners, in turn, brought their students to local museums, the mall, church, and other community sites.

Colby-Sawyer College (NH) wanted to create an active learning environment for three generations of participants and to stimulate companionship and life-long friendships between college students and older adults. Pairs of older adults and college students worked with young children at a local school. Together the pairs created a “life story” of the older adults using media of their choice and shared the stories during a community-wide event on campus.

With a goal of reducing the risk of depression among older adults living independently, students at Hilbert College (NY) developed and offered a series of weekly individual and group activities. The activities included arts and crafts projects, dramatic readings, presentations of oral histories, discussions of wellness, and participation in campus and community activities.

Students at Regis College (MA) used PhotoVoice, a participatory action research technique, to capture information from residents of a skilled nursing facility. They used face-to-face conversations and photography to learn how retired adults approach their daily lives and reflect on the past.

Students and older adults seated at tables
Regis College (MA) students meet with small groups of older adults residing in a local facility. (Photo provided by Regis College.)

Developing Oral Histories

Following an immersive experience in which they built relationships in and served the community, undergraduates at California Baptist University gathered the oral histories of residents aged 65 and older living in Riverside, a community of Casa Blanca, one of the oldest Mexican American districts in Southern California. Many of the families residing in this neighborhood are descendants of migrants who came to the region to work on the railroads and citrus groves as early as the 1800s or during the Bracero Program that lasted from 1942 until 1964. At the end of the academic year, the students held “showcase” events both on campus and in the community in which they shared the oral histories that were developed and the resulting relationships.

Goodwin College (CT) students engaged with residents of a health and rehabilitation center through various activities, including watching movies and baseball games, playing card and board games, and having conversations in a courtyard. Their most enduring accomplishment, however, was the creation of digital stories of some of the residents’ lives. The stories served as the centerpiece of a culminating event and celebration.

Mercy College (NY) faculty members involved undergraduate students in an existing program for graduate students in their communication disorders program. Undergraduates enrolled in an upper-level course facilitated weekly oral discussions with older adults using reminiscence therapy techniques to create oral histories. The students then created digital stories that focused on their reflections about the older adults’ life histories.

Spelman College (GA) students participating in the Giving Voice, Visibility, and Service to African American Women Elders (GVVS at Spelman College) oral history project established in 2002 had the opportunity to engage in a service component that included two semesters of mentoring by older African American women. A goal of the project is to help younger women see older adults as “real people who are important contributors to society.” Together students and mentors experienced worship, dancing, learning, and celebrating “women of wisdom.”

Students and older adults dance for seated older adults
Spelman College’s (GA) Gloria Wade Gayles, students, and older adult participants celebrated “women of wisdom.” (Photo provided by Spelman College.)

St. John Fisher College (NY) developed a two-semester service learning collaboration between sociology and biology faculty members. As a component of the project, during the first semester, students interviewed older adults living in a senior life facility and wrote a life history for each of them.

University of Saint Francis (IN) built relationships with low-income older adults by sharing life lessons. After developing comfortable relationships with older adults through a series of interactions over the course of a year, students recorded interviews in which the adults shared their life experiences and responded to prompted questions from student interviewers. Each adult received a copy of their interview, and edited versions were broadcast during a special program on the local national public radio station and during breaks in news segments. The stories also are available online.

Applying the Arts

Bennington College (VT) formed a partnership with Bennington Project Independence, a community agency that offers daily activities to older adults. Students conducted daily exercise sessions that included stretching, yoga, low impact aerobics, breathing exercises, free weights, and other physical activities designed to help improve motor skills and sharpen cognitive abilities. However, the highlights of the project were the art projects and talent show that was the culmination of the project. Participating older adults learned how to sketch, draw, and work with paint. They then used these new skills to create art projects both individually and in groups. Participants also demonstrated their artistic skills in dancing, acting, and musical performance for a Bennington Project Independence audience.

Converse College (SC) students and older adults collaborated to produce an original theatre production, Growing Old: Food and Oral History in Performance. This creative team got to know each other and their community through trips to local sites and later shared their experiences with food during different times in their lives. The team’s goal was to help one another be more mindful of living and eating in healthy ways throughout their lives. The culmination of their work was an immersive theatrical performance that “engaged the memories and stories of both elderly women and young women to explore the centrality of food in our lives as young and old women, to address food insecurity in the American South and the social isolation of elderly community members, and to embrace the intimate ways in which food is central to the social fabric of southern women’s lives.”

Four students perform an original theatre production on stage
Converse College (SC) students perform the original theatre production, Growing Old: Food and Oral History in Performance, which was developed with older adult collaborators. (Photo provided by Converse College.)

Moravian College (PA) students were paired with older adults with similar interests to use the MUSIC & MEMORY® program’s approach to improve the quality of life for people with such neurological conditions as cognitive impairment and dementia. MUSIC & MEMORY is an established nonprofit program with locations across the country. The students and older adults listened to music and shared their reactions to the musical selections and to the memories the music may have evoked.

Student leaders at Wofford College (SC) brought their student colleagues to two low-income housing authority sites for older adults, two community centers run by the Spartanburg County Parks and Recreation 50+ wellness program, and one assisted living facility primarily for individuals who receive Medicaid benefits to engage older adults in creative and interactive activities. These activities included storytelling, fiction writing, and various art projects. The older adults were invited to share their projects on campus and celebrate the friendships that they had made.

Reducing the Risk of Falls

An interdisciplinary team—including a registered nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist, pharmacist, and clinical ethnographer—at Concordia University Wisconsin worked with students in these health-related fields to conduct in-home assessments of the risk of falls, medication safety, and mental health for older adults receiving Meals on Wheels. The team established a process for others to identify safety and health risks for other older adults living at home.

Meredith College (NC) students worked with faculty members to develop and implement a fall prevention protocol for socially isolated, low-income older adults who live independently in the community. The students administered home safety checks and taught older adults an in-home exercise routine to improve balance. Students also prepared an exercise training video that modeled exercises and provided narration that described the appropriate way to perform each exercise.

Engaging in Physical Activity

Exercise science students at Barton College (NC) used exercise equipment purchased with foundation support to provide supervised physical activity sessions for residents of a facility that serves both assisted living and memory care units. Students were paired with gerontology students who conducted oral histories with the same seniors.

Students from various major courses of study at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón (PR) met with low-income older adults at the university’s athletic facilities to promote good health and reduction of obesity. Among their activities were engaging in exercise routines designed by a senior faculty member in exercise sciences and led by students, and participating in workshops on the prevention of hypokinetic diseases, physical fitness, and healthy lifestyles and eating habits.

Living a Healthy Life

A project at Calvin University (MI) invited older adults with chronic health needs and limited resources to share experiences with students in a course on “Human Behavior and the Social Environment.” The older adults participated in the lifespan section of the course alongside the students enrolled in the class, and pairs of health psychology students visited the adults in their homes and discussed pertinent topics related to health and their personal interests.

Students studying occupational therapy and nursing at the College of Saint Mary (NE) used information about the immigrant and refugee older adults at an intercultural senior center to develop and implement health care plans for them.

Nursing and occupational therapy students at Dominican University of California visited the homes of older residents in a rural area to conduct assessments and develop care plans to ensure that residents had food, transportation, medications, and a safe environment. They also hosted events at a local community center to share information about home safety and fall prevention and have created and disseminated brochures on health-related topics in both English and Spanish through the community. Importantly, the students administered more than 460 free flu vaccines at five community-based events.

Nursing students at Gwynedd Mercy University (PA) completed an orientation and six hours of workshops on the psychosocial aspects of aging and the mental health of an aging population. They then developed a presentation for senior centers in the community on depression and other psychosocial aspects of aging. They followed these presentations with visits to the older adults’ homes to assess their level of social engagement, suitability of their lifestyle, and mental health. Students and older adults also engaged in social events on campus and in the community.

Shenandoah University (VA) took a diverse approach to working with residents of a senior center. Psychology students led programs to improve older adults’ interaction; public health students led programs on nutrition and healthy eating habits; and exercise science students led programs to encourage physical fitness.

A second semester experience in St. John Fisher College’s (NY) service learning collaboration asked students to draw from theories in the “science of aging” course to track physical and cognitive biomarker data and create and implement individualized plans to improve the health of older adults living in the local senior life facility.


Campbell University (NC) engaged students and older adult “master gardeners” from assisted living centers in the community in the maintenance of the Mustard Seed Community Garden. Students and the master gardeners developed valuable relationships, while growing and harvesting food that was donated to the local community. Students worked together side by side, sharing stories of their lives and laughing while they worked. In order to make the garden accessible to all older adults, the students developed an “adaptive raised bed” at an assisted living facility. The food grown was donated to a food bank, food pantry, and community care clinic. The university’s divinity school also incorporated working in the garden into a course called “Food and Theology.”

Pfeiffer University (NC) increased access to fresh produce for older adults in the community by maintaining the “Hunger Relief Garden” and involving both students and older adult groups in all phases of gardening. The students also offer an extensive deliver system to bring the produce to older adults who reside in the larger rural community.

Using Food to Bring the Generations Together

A project at Chatham University (PA) addressed older adult isolation and food insecurity through a series of interactions between students and the adults. Students and older adults shared several meals and conversation. Each student gathered stories about foods that are important to their older adult partner’s identity or community culture. The students then recorded a story shared by their partners, along with related recipes, and worked together to create a community cookbook that celebrated the culture, life, and contributions of older adults to the community.

Students at The College of Saint Rose (NY) volunteered at a food pantry for a full academic year to help alleviate the food insecurity experienced by older refugees and immigrants and other older adults living in the community. They delivered groceries to residents at a local housing facility for low-income older adults and developed relationships with all residents. The residents knew on which day students would visit the building, and they would wait in the building’s lobby for the students to arrive so they could socialize with the students. Community meals for the students and residents also were organized as part of the project.

Wheeling University (WV) encouraged students to build on a program that has used the campus garden to bring people together for the past few years. Students bring healthy food from the garden to the community and develop relationships with low-income older adults. Students play games with residents in two senior centers, have “buddies” with whom they have extended conversations, and volunteer alongside older adults at a local Catholic Charities chapter.

During the first year of the project, Whitman College (WA) students provided male older adults with basic cooking skills that many of their generation did not learn. The second iteration of the course included female older adults as well. Each five-week course included classes in such practical skills as grocery shopping, safe food handling, meal planning, basic cooking skills, and nutrition. After each class, the college students and older adults shared the meal they prepared together. One of the goals of the program was to address the stereotypes that each generation tends to have about the other.

Creating New Skills for Income Generation

Students drawn from several majors at Elizabethtown College (PA) connected with low-income older adults from a rural community to develop personalized study plans for using technology to improve access to income generation opportunities and then implemented their plans. Some examples of work that was accomplished included developing and improving internet skills in order to access services and employment opportunities; smartphone usage skills to more effectively communicate with employers, agencies, and family members; and internet storefront sites to create avenues for selling crafts and artwork.

Identifying Schemes that Victimize Older Adults

Elizabethtown College (PA) students worked with their older adult partners on training that focused on reducing vulnerability of older adults to telephone and internet traps that often target older adults.

Virginia Wesleyan University students offered cybersecurity and online safety education to area residents at the Westminster/Wesleyan LifeLong Learning Institute.

Five students present to seated audience of older adults on fraud and phishing.
Older adults learn from Virginia Wesleyan University students about cybersecurity and online safety education. (Photo provided by Virginia Wesleyan University.)

Developing Financial Literacy

A Christian Brothers University (TN) student intern worked at a local organization to develop and implement a financial literacy course for the organization’s older adult clients. The student also assisted older adults with their financial management and income tax preparation needs.

Longer descriptions of participating institutions’ projects can be found in the Directory of Projects.

Challenges Faced and Lessons Learned

​The challenges participants faced, the effective solutions they implemented, and the lessons that were learned throughout the course of the project

Every project, no matter how successful, experiences challenges. This can be true especially for complex projects that involve numerous and diverse institutions, a lot of people in various positions inside and outside the institutions, and a limited amount of time and resources to address the issues. This project was no exception. Some of the issues were easily and quickly resolved while others were never fully rectified. This is to be expected and has no bearing on the ultimate success and sustainability of a campus-based project.

These challenges, as unfortunate as they may seem, ultimately lead to the success of a project. Without challenges and setbacks, there are not always opportunities to adjust and to improve projects. Project shortcomings also may not be apparent until a close look at each of the project’s components and an assessment of their successes and opportunities for improvement has been completed.

The lessons learned by the 43 participating institutions provided CIC with valuable insights into “best practices” for developing thriving intergenerational projects. Listed below are some of the more commonly experienced challenges and some of the steps that participants took to solve them. Our intent is to offer some of the lessons learned during the Intergenerational Connections project so that those embarking on a similar journey (or just want to improve their intergenerational operations) might be able to anticipate potential problems or solve them quickly if they occur.

Losing Valuable Time

One of the most common setbacks resulted from the length of time it takes for Institutional Review Boards (IRB) to conduct research using human subjects to approve the project. A related loss of time occurred when first research requests were incomplete or insufficient for the IRB to make a determination and the proposal had to be rewritten and resubmitted to the IRB. Time is a valuable resource for projects with a finite period in which to establish a program. In addition, it is important that all of the institutions in a consortium move at a similar pace and with the same approximate order of development.

  • Take a proposal to the IRB as soon as the program has been fully conceived.
  • Be sure that the information shared with the IRB is complete and detailed.

Ensuring Satisfaction and Positive Results

It is important to think about the community need, a project’s results, and the benefits participants—students and older adults—will gain from the project’s conception.

  • Start a project with its ends in mind.
  • Conduct a needs assessment in the community before embarking on a project; this early step grounds the design of the project in research and ultimately garners better results and fewer setbacks.
  • Be sure to manage the expectations of the institution, partner organization(s), students, and older adults and make sure that they are realistic. Don’t overpromise activities or successful outcomes. A clear understanding of expectations helps to “level the playing field” and ensure that all constituencies understand the project activities and goals.
  • Be aware of competing opportunities; make sure that all participants understand precisely what is expected of them regardless of other demands on their time and energy.
  • Establish sound cooperative relationships with existing programs; establishing synergies among programs with similar goals often can make all of them stronger.
  • Designate a single point-person who will manage all program logistics.

Student Learning and Development

Students must be prepared to interact with older adults who are not family members. In addition, they can be shy and uncomfortable being around people who have health or accessibility challenges.

  • Have students discuss and practice interacting with older adults, including how to begin conversations.
  • Discuss the processes and likely consequences of aging, including death, with students. Help them understand what aging processes and effects to expect with the older adults with whom they interact. Also help them understand that there is great variation in these effects among individuals. Equip students with appropriate coping skills.
  • Create opportunities for students to network with their peers who are engaging in similar projects.

Student Participation and Persistence

One of the most common challenges among the projects was the inability to predict student interest and availability. Attrition also was a problem, largely because students were juggling competing demands on their time—coursework, on- and off-campus employment, family obligations, and curricular or co-curricular responsibilities. An institution’s intergenerational project could become an effective vehicle of desired student outcomes if the organizers include transparent expectations for students that are aligned with specific outcomes, clear pathways, opportunities for integration and reflection, and educational practices that engage students at high levels.

  • Offer the experience as a required component of a course or for independent course credit.
  • Pay students stipends that are consistent with institutional policy.
  • Make expectations of participation and assessment of student achievement clear to potentially participating students.
  • Actively promote the project on campus to attract student participants and maintain websites and social media. It also would be helpful to make information on the benefits to students available widely; speak about the project to a range of student groups; and enlist students to share their experiences with other students.
  • Develop a realistic and regular schedule for interactions between college students and older adults, and keep expectations manageable.
  • Provide opportunities for students to see how their intergenerational work will contribute to their future career; if possible, help them make potential job contacts in the field in which they are working.

Older Adult Participation and Persistence

There are many reasons why older adults might be reluctant to participate in an intergenerational project, including lack of understanding of the college’s motives in asking students to work with them, lack of ease with young people, or not knowing what to expect from the experience. In addition, the composition of the group of older adults who participate in a project may fluctuate because of illness, changes in living arrangements, or even death.

  • Consult the older adults in the project about their preferences for participation. It is important to keep in mind that some older adults may not be comfortable leaving their homes after dark, do not have transportation available to them, or need to be at their place of residence during meal times so they do not miss a meal.
  • Develop a realistic and regular schedule for interactions between college students and older adults and keep expectations manageable.
  • Encourage older adult participants to take a leadership role in the project to ensure their continued engagement and the engagement of their peers.

Faculty Members’ Time and Workload

Too often, especially at smaller independent colleges, faculty members are asked to assume responsibility for new projects in addition to heavy teaching loads and high expectations for college service and scholarship. If institutions are supportive of projects, such as those involved with intergenerational connections, that enhance their relationship with the larger community and its organizations, then they should support the faculty and staff members who are integral to their success. Otherwise, the projects may not have the oversight and active participation that they deserve.

  • Incorporate oversight of the project into faculty members’ teaching load and/or expectations of service.
  • Provide monetary compensation to faculty and staff members who are involved with the project.
  • Allow faculty and/or staff members to use this project as a research opportunity.
  • Prepare students for the possibility that the older adults with whom they have been interacting may become ill, debilitated, or even die.

Community Partners’ Turnover and Changing Priorities

Staff members at community organizations change from time to time; some leave their positions while others are reassigned within the organization. In addition, some community partner organizations face budgetary or other problems that make it difficult for them to continue their engagement with the college on the same level or at all.

  • As soon as the institution is notified of a potential turnover, schedule a meeting with the head of the organization and/or the new staff member to discuss the project and how it will continue to benefit the partner organization and older adults; don’t allow time to pass or momentum will be lost.
  • Establish sound cooperative relationships with existing related programs; establishing synergies among programs with similar goals often can make all of them stronger.

Understanding the Effectiveness of the Project for Students, Older Adults, and the Institutions Involved

It is important to know what each constituency is expecting, learning, and experiencing; often, it is neither what we expected nor predicted. While the reality is often more rewarding than early expectations, sometimes it falls short of our high expectations.

  • Start a project with the ends in mind.
  • Develop comprehensive and rigorous assessment plans and administer them regularly.
  • Share the results of program assessment with all constituencies and discuss how the results might improve.
  • Use the results to promote participation in the project among students, older adults, and community organizations.

Institutionalizing the Project

Projects that are incorporated into an institution’s regular workings have the best opportunity for long-term sustainability absent funding. Ensuring that the project has been fully institutionalized is a good way to make sure that the benefits to students and older adults persist.

  • Find efficiencies in the program that will make it worth the time and expense, such as preparing materials that can be used by other institutions, partner organizations, or future cohorts of intergenerational participants.
  • Make the experience a permanent, credit-baring course or incorporate it into a service-learning requirement at the institution.
  • Include similar experiences in existing or new courses.
  • Establish strong relationships with partners in the community so that the partnership becomes a part of fulfilling their mission.

Financial Sustainability

​Factors to consider when developing a financially sustainable intergenerational program in your campus community

Intergenerational connections projects provide a perfect opportunity to make a significant impact in local communities, and one key component to ensuring long-term impact is financial sustainability. Institutions have found creative ways to engage new sources of financial support for their programs, either from their institution or from external parties.

  • Adjust the sponsoring academic department’s budget to support the project.
  • Convince the institution’s financial officers to increase the department’s budget to support the project.
  • Develop a partnership with the development office and public relations team to build support for the program among alumni/ae, staff, and members of the community.
  • Secure external funding from community foundations and organizations, alumni/ae, local philanthropists, or health care organizations and their foundations.

It is important to recognize that programs that are sustained extend the benefits to more students and more older adults each year they are continued.

A Final Word: Intergenerational Connections Improve Communities

​Essential to CIC’s mission is the promotion of educational excellence and the enhancement of public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. Therefore, it is only fitting to highlight the educational benefits of intergenerational programs for the students who participated in them and the older adults with whom they interacted. Participating institutions were universally enthusiastic about the positive effects Intergeneration Connections had on the growth and development of students and on the lives of older adults.

Benefits to Students

Participating institutions reported numerous student abilities that were developed, extended, or refined through their participation in the Intergenerational Connections project. Among them were:

  • Intellectual Benefits: Improved communication skills; knowledge of the psychology, sociology, physiology, and biology of aging
  • Career Development Skills: Organizational project management skills; problem-solving abilities; data analysis; report writing; video development and editing; public speaking experience; importance of honoring commitments and being responsible for one’s own actions; learning both quantitative and qualitative research methods; acquiring the ability to collect and present oral histories in a systematic way; practicing the skills that will be required in nursing, social work, and exercise science; enhanced professionalism; acquisition of knowledge specific to certain careers, such as how to navigate the procedures required for senior low-income housing; leadership skills; time management; learning how to advocate for clients; leaning how to establish, prioritize, and often rethink actions
  • Social Skills: Ability to interact with people of different generations; comfort interacting with people from different backgrounds; developing acute observational skills; learning how to approach multicultural and bilingual individuals
  • Personal Development: Development of a sense of purpose in life; learning how to “live life to its fullest; coming to appreciate the “little things” in life; understanding the importance of a positive attitude; developing greater empathy and understanding of others, especially for the needs of a vulnerable population; enhanced listening skills; learning how to adapt to people with mental impairment or hearing loss; practicing the virtues of courage, compassion, patience, empathy, and justice; developing self-confidence through relationship building

  • Awareness: Sensitivity to intergenerational differences; insights into home-based, assisted living, and institutional care for older adults; learning how to engage with a community; development of a deeper awareness of the difficulties of life for older adults, such as hoarding, suicidal ideation, loneliness, depression, and illnesses

Benefits to Older Adults

The primary benefits for the older adult participants in this project were outcomes of the primary priorities of this project. That is, older adults were less isolated, both physically and socially, and they experienced increased interconnectedness with others. Some came to live in safer and more affordable housing. Others had more nutritious and affordable diets. Still others learned skills that could increase their income. However, there were far more, perhaps less tangible, benefits for older adults as well.

  • Physical Benefits: Stronger and more flexible bodies; improved overall physical health
  • Mental/Emotional Benefits: An increase in self-confidence; reduced social isolation; long-lasting and positive relationships; improved sense of purpose and value; more opportunities to have fun

Closing Thoughts

Perhaps the students who worked with the older adults were in the best position to see what they had gained from the experiences. Wofford College (SC) student participants were asked to answer the question, “What do you think the older adults gained from this experience?” Their responses included:

  • I think they gained a sense of purpose and it gave them something to look forward to.
  • I feel like the older adults have gained a better sense of purpose. I have tried always to make them aware that they are valued, so I hope they also gained more joy and happiness.
  • A sense that they are important because we cared to keep coming back.
  • I think the older adults loved interacting with younger students and having someone to listen to their stories.
  • They gained joy from this experience. They gained hope by looking forward to new interactions and friendships.
  • I think they had fun! It was something new and enjoyable.
  • I think they finally began to realize that we weren’t there for service but for real friendship.

The benefits of intergenerational interactions to students and older adults alike are profound. CIC encourages colleges and universities to consider seriously opportunities to develop intergenerational connections for their campus communities.