Youth Engagement

Jump to: Engagement Strategies | Developing Your Marketing Message | Preparing Youth to Work with Older Adults

Engaging Children and Youth

Challenges Associated with Engaging Children and Youth

Young people can engage with older residents in many ways. In most cases, the partners in an intergenerational program will work together to identify youth who can participate in activities. You may also want to recruit high school and college students who want to volunteer on their own time.

Before you begin recruiting, think about ways to motivate students to volunteer and about the kinds of experiences young people might find appealing.

You may encounter some challenges when engaging young people in your intergenerational programs, including:

  • Inconsistent student attendance.
  • Transportation.
  • Scheduling and/or logistics.
  • Cost of background checks.

Effective Strategies

Target Your Outreach

  • Develop strong relationships with teachers, counselors, and principals who can facilitate the engagement of students in kindergarten through grade 12. Align intergenerational activities with curricular goals such as history and communication skills.
  • Contact college service-learning offices and faculty from college departments that are preparing students to enter health and human services field.
  • Ask if you can recruit student volunteers during a university jobs fair.
  • Work with student government leaders to recruit students to work with residents.

Create Incentives

  • Work with college service-learning offices to allow students to use intergenerational experiences to fulfill service-learning requirements.
  • Work with partners to explore ways to help students earn extra credit, scholarships, or employment at a partner agency.

Customize Volunteer Opportunities When Possible

  • Create opportunities that address student interests and build on their strengths.
  • Highlight how students will benefit from intergenerational experiences and the impact they can have on their community.

Social Media

  • Use Facebook and other social media outlets to promote intergenerational opportunities.
  • Encourage students to create and share short videos that capture their intergenerational experiences.

Developing Your Marketing Message: The Creative Brief

It is challenging, but important, to develop a compelling message to attract young participants and volunteers to your intergenerational program. Work with your partner to develop a creative brief similar to the one you created when recruiting residents.

A resident at Vernon Heights, a Lutheran Senior Services affordable senior housing community in Lebanon, MO, hugs a little girl who is visiting as part of the community’s partnership with the Lebanon Area Homeschoolers Association.

Creative Brief Example:

Which students are you trying to reach?

Example: College students who are interested in health or social service fields.

How do these students feel now about engaging in activities with older persons?

Example: Students see older adults as vulnerable people who need services and may not have any opportunities to form personal relationships with students.

What are you offering students? How will they benefit from participating?

Example: We can provide opportunities for students to form meaningful relationships with older adults. Students can learn about the strengths and the challenges that older adults face.

What do you want youth to think, feel, and do as a result of your outreach efforts?

Example: We want young people to see that older people are resilient and have a lot to teach us, and that young people can support older adults while learning from them at the same time. We want students to understand that the field of aging services has many career opportunities.

What message would resonate with students about participating in intergenerational activities?

Example: Give a little, learn a lot. Connect with an older adult in your community!

Preparing Youth to Work with Older Adults

Before young people meet with older adults, be sure to sensitize them to issues of aging and try to dispel negative stereotypes they may hold about elders. The focus and depth of your training will depend on the age of the young people and the kinds of activities in which they will be engaged. If possible, the housing staff member should conduct training sessions in collaboration with a teacher, youth leader, or faculty member in order to offer students a realistic picture of the population with whom they will be working.

Communication Strategies

  • Make-eye contact.
  • Speak slowly and louder.
  • Position your body closer or so you are facing the other person.
  • Repeat yourself if necessary.
  • Try rephrasing what you are saying or asking. ¬ Ask for clarification

Tips for Training

  • Emphasize the diversity of the older adult population. Young people should understand that older residents vary in their level of ability and cognitive functioning. Not all older adults will have difficulty hearing or understanding, and this will become obvious after a brief encounter.
  • Help youth appreciate both the positive and negative aspects of aging.
  • If possible, give students a tour of your housing community or show them a video before their first visit.
  • Build in time to tell students about the backgrounds of older adults who represent different cultures.
  • Review effective techniques for working with older adults. This is particularly important if your program involves sharing specific skills through technology training programs or activities that teach English to older immigrants.
  • Be prepared to address issues of loss and grief, particularly if students are dealing with the death of a resident.

See Appendix C for sample training materials for youth.