Generations United and The Eisner Foundation have come out with a new report, I Need You, You Need Me: The Young, The Old, and What we Can Achieve Together, about “examples of pioneers reuniting the generations and making their communities better place to live in.” Through a survey, the report shows why it is important for generations to come together. People of all ages typically spend most of their day around people their same age, for instance, young people in school, adults at work. By taking the time to be around others from a different generation, people can learn from each other, and spread joy.

In a recent survey by Generations United and The Eisner Foundation, 53 percent of people stated that “aside from family members, few of the people they regularly spend time with are much older or much younger than they are.” Ages being separated like this has not always been the case. In the late 19th century, Americans began to realize that children and elderly needed certain types of protection. This was when child labor was banned and retirement because more standard during later life. Although these groups began to prosper, they were also separated out from other people of different ages, which causes issues. As the report states: “protection should not equal isolation.”

There are many positives of elders benefiting from intergenerational programs. Their self-esteem improves because they no longer feel useless. Children and teens can even teach elders something new too. With all generations working together, perceptions begin to change as well; each group learns about the other and sees the positives of each age group. This would be very positive for children/teens that don’t have grandparents, or even elderly that don’t have any children or grandchildren. Both sets of my grandparents passed away when I was much younger, so I didn’t have the opportunity, as much, to learn from them, or even about them. As an adult, I can see how I would even benefit from an intergenerational program where different ages are brought together.

Libraries have a great opportunity to bring all ages together, which is what scholars have stated must happen. In San Diego County, the government has “declared age integration a core community value.” Libraries can offer a wide range of programs that promote bringing ages together. For example, seniors and children could read stories together one-on-one, there could be a grandparents/grandchild storytime, teen volunteers could go on outreach visits with library staff to senior living homes, you could hold a chess tournament with children and elders. By holding programs with activities, it allows for conversation to flow more freely.

Libraries are the perfect place to start intergenerational programming. All of these generations already are at the library; staff just need to bring them together. Intergenerational programs have many benefits for customers, but it also allows for staff from different departments to collaborate together. Often, it is hard for Adult Services and Children’s Services to work together; there are not many opportunities. Working in Teen Services allows us to be more fluid, but there are still many improvements that could be made.

Do you or your library offer any intergenerational programs? Please share!


About Maeve Dodds

Maeve is a Teen Lead Librarian for Charlotte Mecklenburg County, University City Branch, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has worked in adult and children services, and was previously an elementary school media specialist. She likes reading in her hammock and trying new foods.

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