Goals and Key Elements

Jump to: Clarifying Goals | Logic Model | Key Elements of Intergenerational Programming | Depth of Engagement

Once you have your partner(s) in place, work together to plan programs that reflect the interests of all partners and participants and benefit both older and younger populations.

Staff members from housing communities and partner agencies usually have primary responsibility for planning intergenerational experiences. But there are other, equally effective structures for organizing intergenerational
programs, including:

  • Creating an intergenerational advisory committee could help you take an inclusive approach to planning that could increase your likelihood of success. The advisory committee might be composed of key housing staff, representatives from partner agencies, older residents who want to be involved in planning, and, if possible, youth representatives.
  • Empowering residents to take major responsibility for planning and implementing a range of intergenerational activities can promote a sense of “ownership” and increase the likelihood of resident participation.
Clarifying Goals

What do you want to achieve by bringing older residents and younger generations together? Goals are the result you desire. They represent broad principles that guide program decisions. Here are some examples of program goals identified by housing communities across the country:

  • To reduce isolation and loneliness among older residents.
  • To connect residents to activities that can give them a sense of purpose.
  • To expose young people to careers in aging.
  • To dispel fears of aging and age-related stereotypes among young people.
  • To enhance the academic and life skills of young people.
  • To promote trust, understanding, and empathy across ages.
  • To foster the transmission of specific skills—such as technology, language, or crafts—from one generation to another.
  • To build a sense of civic responsibility among youth and older adults.

Hylton Point II Apartments
(Lutheran Senior Services):
Hylton Point II is an affordable senior housing community in St. Louis, MO. The resident services coordinator convened an
Intergenerational Committee comprised of residents and students, including pharmacy students from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, a partner of the housing
community. Committee members meet monthly to plan future programs and
discuss successes and challenges.

Country View Apartments and Townhomes (Volunteers of America):
Country View Apartments is a HUD-funded multifamily property in Benton Harbor, MI. Younger and older residents participate in monthly activities that they
plan as a group. Activities have included learning about technology, board game
competitions, brain teasers, and a community-wide Senior Day.

Also think about:
  • How many individuals do you want to be involved?
  • Who do you want to engage in the program?
  • What tasks need to be accomplished and by when?


What is your goal? To increase the technology skills of older residents.

How will you achieve this? Recruit and train 10 high school students to teach older residents basic technology skills on a weekly basis from February until June.

Questions to Ask as You Plan Programs and Activities


A good place to begin is to create a logic model to guide your program planning. You can use the logic model to identify the short-term and intermediate outcomes you want to achieve, and to think about the activities that will help you achieve your goals. Below is an example of a logic model for a bi-weekly reading program with youth.

Here is a blank logic model to complete based on your own programming ideas.

Key Elements of Intergenerational Programming

Intergenerational programming involves a planned set of activities designed to increase cooperation, interaction, or exchange between different generations. It involves the sharing of skills, knowledge, and experiences between old and young. Developing intergenerational programming that occurs over a period of time, rather than discrete, onetime activities allows you to implement a set of integrated experiences that can have a real impact on all generations. Intergenerational programs and activities may vary significantly from one housing community to another. However, all high-quality intergenerational programming has the following key characteristics:

Relational: Activities are vehicles for building relationships and fostering cross-age interaction.

Reciprocal: Participants have opportunities to give and receive, to teach and to learn.

Respectful: Individual, age, and cultural differences are respected.

Inclusive: People of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities are welcome to participate.

Empowering: The strengths of each generation are highlighted, and participants are involved in all aspects of planning and implementation.

Responsive: Activities are designed to address the needs and interests of different age groups and/or the community.

Depth of Engagement

Intergenerational programs vary in the degree to which they build relationships between older adults and young people. We encourage all programs to strive for deeper levels of engagement among generations. In general, one-time events are less likely to produce the kind of meaningful relationships that can be developed during longer, more intensive programs. Creating an environment that supports relationship-building requires extensive and thoughtful planning.

Kaplan’s Scale of Intergenerational Engagement

The Kaplan Scale of Intergenerational Engagement Scale can be used to examine the depth of meaningful engagement among participants in an intergenerational program. The scale can help you assess the depth of current programs or help you plan for a new program.

Use the scale to place your intergenerational program on a continuum with points that correspond to different levels of intergenerational engagement, ranging from initiatives that provide no direct contact between age groups (point #1 on the continuum) to those that promote intensive contact and ongoing opportunities for connections (point #7 on the

Points on the Continuum:

  • Learn About the Other Age Group: Participants learn about the lives of people in the other age group, but there is no contact between the generations.

    Example: A “Learning about Aging” curriculum in school districts where children learn about older people.
  • Seeing the Other Age Group at a Distance: Program participants interact with each other, but have no face-to-face contact.

    Examples: Making videos, writing letters, and sharing artwork with each other.
  • Meeting Each Other: During a one-time event, young people and older adults come together in a group to meet each other.

    Examples: A group of students makes a one-time visit to a nursing home to interview older adults; children trick-or-treat on Halloween, or youth perform songs at a Christmas Concert in a shared setting.
  • Annual or Infrequent Activities: The generations come together during established community events or organizational celebrations.

    Examples: Students visit the housing community to celebrate Grandparents Day, younger and older people compete together in fun physical activities during an annual Intergenerational Olympics, or senior housing residents and a youth club make sandwiches for a soup kitchen twice a year.
  • Demonstration Projects: Older adults and younger people meet regularly over an extended period lasting at least several months. The intergenerational dialogue, sharing, and learning taking place during these activities can be quite intensive. These projects are typically implemented on a trial basis.

    Examples: Older adults provide mentoring and support for pregnant and parenting teens through an intergenerational support program, high school seniors interview veterans about World War II through an oral history program, or senior housing residents and a children’s group grow vegetables through a seasonal gardening project.
  • Ongoing Intergenerational Programs: This category includes intergenerational programs that are integrated into the participating organizations’ general activities and learning curricula because the organizations deem them to be successful and/or valuable.

    Examples: Teams of younger and older people plan and implement a multi-session intergenerational arts program, older residents are engaged in mentoring and tutoring activities through a school-based volunteer program, or a community history program captures the stories and experiences of older adults and youth living in a neighborhood.
  • Creating Intergenerational Settings: The value of intergenerational sharing and caring are infused into the way community settings are planned and function. Opportunities for meaningful intergenerational engagement are abundant and embedded in social norms and traditions. Formal and/or informal intergenerational activities or connections are encouraged on a daily basis.

    Examples: A housing community is developed as an intergenerational setting with both scheduled and unscheduled opportunities for intergenerational interaction and dedicated programming—such as a preschool or an after-school program—for children and youth; or a community park is designed to bring together people of all ages and accommodate various passive and active recreational interests.
A young visitor participates in the “Learn to Knit” program at Town Meadow Senior Housing,
an affordable Cathedral Square community in Essex Junction, VT.

Using the Scale

Use this chart to rate your current level of intergenerational engagement and your goal for intergenerational engagement, on a scale of 1-7, for each of your intergenerational programs. You may find the two numbers are the same. Add additional rows to the chart to list more activities.

If you are just starting a program, think about the level of engagement you desire.