The Benefits of Intergenerational Relationships
With the opening of The Clubhouse in 2014, intergenerational opportunities reach an exciting new level at Willow Valley Communities.
“The whole environment was designed with intergenerational engagement in mind,” explained John Swanson, President of Willow Valley Living. “We wanted to create an atmosphere of fun and interactivity, a place where those who live at Willow Valley and their children and grandchildren would want to spend time with one another. We’re already seeing a lot of special things happen in this space.” A growing body of research is exploring the value of intergenerational relationships. Erik Erikson was one of the first psychologists to describe social development across the lifespan. During the stage that begins at about 60, Erikson saw people seek to find meaning in their lives and make sense of the lives they have lived. Younger generations in more formative stages of their lives benefit from the experience of older family members and friends.
In a 2013 paper entitled, “Benefits of Intergenerational Relationships,” Lynda Spence, graduate student, and Heidi Liss Radunovich, assistant professor at University of Florida, enumerated some of the benefits found in research on intergenerational relationships, including:
- Provide an opportunity for both to learn new skills
- Give the child and the older adult a sense of purpose
- Help to alleviate misconceptions children may have of older adults
- Help children to understand and later accept their own aging
- Invigorate and energize older adults
- Help keep family stories and history alive
Over the years, Willow Valley has invested increasingly in enhancing opportunities for intergenerational relationships. From the beginning, creating environments that challenge perceptions of what senior living can be has helped make the communities a desired destination for visits. The relationships between younger team members and the people who live in the communities has always been a source of joy for both age groups. “I love to learn from them and hear their stories,” said one teenaged Culinary Services team member. This relationship between team members and residents has been enhanced through shared experience. A Community Outreach group brings together the talents of residents and team members to support various projects geared toward youth in the larger Lancaster community. Residents support youth through scholarship programs. The two groups share access to the Fitness Center and find themselves together in such activities at Deep Water Walking class.
And of course there is Camp Willow, Willow Valley’s Day Camp for residents’ grandchildren. Camp Willow provides another wonderful intergenerational opportunity for two and sometimes three generations in a family to rediscover and learn from each other. Residents’ grandchildren from all over the country visit and participate in some shared activities and trips for a week with their grandparents during Camp Willow. And often the children’s parents use this week as a time to reconnect with their own parents.
Connecting the generations is a positive, not only on an individual level, but for our society as a whole. Gaining a better understanding of each group can help enhance the vibrancy and wisdom of the other. Willow Valley is committed to this connection now and into the future.
John Swanson sums it up: “At Willow Valley Communities, that value has been evident since the communities opened more than 30 years ago.”