by Molly Prues
The Strengths of Multigenerational Collaboration
Collaboration between generations is an important way to change people’s attitudes about aging. One of a number of examples exists as a program in Pittsburg at Carnegie Mellon University. A professor, who is also an artist, created the program to collaborate with older people to create large-scale murals in public places. Younger artists pair with older adults from the city. The elders act as “custodians of history” and provide a historical vision of places throughout the city on which artists base their murals (Baker, 2014). They provide a richly textured backdrop to conversations that enable dialogue and promote cohesion (Baker, 2014).
The murals in Pittsburg represent collective collaboration. The elders’ contributions are essential to the production of a collective depiction of social life (Baker, 2014). This example demonstrates how older adults provide a vital role in society as vast resources of knowledge and wisdom. At the same time, the older adults gained a sense of purpose and value in society. Thus, the benefits were reciprocal.
Another example is the Montessori Child Center at Maple Knoll Village, a long-term care facility for older adults, in a neighborhood just north of Cincinnati. The Intergenerational Program provides activities and experiences that benefit both the younger and older persons involved. Children engage in activities with active, healthy, older adults and those more dependent on care. This increases children’s awareness and understanding of elderly persons and aging as a normal life process which people experience in different ways.
Older adults benefit from the program by actively engaging with youth, sharing stories, and helping them which provides the adults with a sense of purpose, value and youthful energy.
Opportunities for the creation of programs similar to the aforementioned ones abound. Where else multigenerational programs make sense?
Baker, D. (2014) Creative approaches to working with older people in the public realm. Working with Older People. 18(1) 10-17.