Intergenerational Education Plan –The Early Life Perspective

Ann Kristin Boström

Questions for parents and pedagogic institutions

1. Is awareness of intergenerational learning arising?

  • Are you or your institution aware of the intergenerational dimension?
  • Do you look through the school materials and react when you find stereotypes of elderly people there? How many of the children have their grandparents in their neighbourhood?

2. Are relationships networked and fostered?

  • Are there elderly people in the neighbourhood?
  • Have you invited them to read or tell their stories for the children?
  • Have the children told stories to their peers that their grandparents have told them?
  • Do children tell their grandparents about their life?

3. Are you aware of the diversity of images of age?

  • What is your own image of elderly people?
  • Do you think of the diversity among them or do you have some stereotypes?
  • What are the children’s images of old people?
  • Are they different? Do you find stereotypes there?
  • When you would like to act in practice and involve the intergenerational dimension into your school, there are some questions to consider as well.
  • Have you prepared the children for the meeting?
  • Have you prepared the elderly to a school very different from when they were young?

Why intergenerational learning and solidarity matters – The Early Life’s Perspective

There has been a change in social structures since the industrialization started. Nowadays there are pension funds and retirement benefits for older people, more women work outside their home while their children can stay in childcare. People have to move away from their parents and relatives to live closer to their workplace. These changes have created gaps between young and old people in society. But there is evidence that yet prejudice and discrimination continue to exist in society. Intergenerational communication and dialogue can be the key to promote civic participation and shared understanding between generations.

Children have a need for a person that takes care of their whole person as their psychological and social development depends on the personal care and attention they receive. Of course parents and teachers are of great importance for children but in times of increasing segmentation of society, the importance of older people taking part in children’s life in pre-school and school is vast. If this happens, there is evidence proving increased social capital, both for children and older people.

How to overcome intergenerational tensions

Regarding lifelong learning and intergenerational learning, it is important to give children adult role models to learn how adults behave. In several countries it is usual that also older people come to pre-primary and schools to socialize with the young ones. They can read stories, play games, help and talk to the children to make the context more connected to the adult world. Regarding this, there are four important points to be pointed out:

1. Organize the institutions/schools for intergenerational meetings

There are different ways of creating possibilities for intergenerational meetings in schools. Intergenerational meetings can work successfully when relations in school and the relationship between schools and communities are regarded; they are good prerequisites for intergenerational relationships to take place in a positive way.

  • Create small respectful communities for learning
  • Ensure success for all students
  • Reengage families in the education of young adolescents
  • Connect schools with communities

2. Prepare seniors and children

When older people come into the classroom out of other reasons than to teach, this implies extra support for children and also a different kind of relationship. At the same time there are important facts to consider before seniors can be involved. Firstly recruitment is important, since the individuals that are accepted ought to be suited to the context of the schools. Further it is necessary to arrange support so they can feel incorporated among the staff. It is important for the elderly volunteers to have specific, clear tasks and give time for recognition and evaluation of programs. It is necessary to prepare the children as well create the best situation possible for building intergenerational relationships.

3. Choosing a model that works in the context

There are programs where senior volunteers contribute and help students and where at the same time students help seniors. Reciprocity is important, which occurs when children/students and seniors meet, whether it takes place on one-to one basis, in small groups or in an entire class.

4. Benefits for children and youths

There is evidence for children enjoying an increased social capital in their classroom when seniors are engaged in their situation, but various intergenerational program models could also significantly contribute to the development of young participants’ academic skills. These include: learning how to articulate personal experience and social observations in oral and written form, learning to work as a part of a group, learning about history as a spirited, ongoing process, and learning how to develop and execute structured interviews as well as how to document the results gained. There are other types of valuable skills and knowledge that young participants can gain from their intergenerational experiences. This includes learning things as varied as handicrafts, performing arts skills, horticultural skills, traditional games or cultural history.

The intergenerational perspective involves great potential for increased wellbeing and self-esteem both for young and old generations. When it is planned and implemented in a way that supports the creation of social capital, intergenerational work always has to be adapted to the actual context in practice in the specific school of a specific country. Much advice can be given but it should always be linked to the cultural context where the actual intergenerational meeting will take place.