Social service leaders, public officials, and academic researchers have all noticed how intergenerational interactions between children and older adults are reciprocally beneficial. When partnered, children exhibit greater empathy, acceptance, reading comprehension, and writing skills, while older adults report less social isolation and an increased sense of social connectedness within the community.
While the benefits of intergenerational interactions have been established, less is known about how different types of engagement may benefit all parties. Some suggest turning to literature in the field of child development for answers, specifically literature relating to the benefits of playful learning—an area of research that examines how children learn best through play. It shares some of the same core theories as research examining intergenerational learning, including the benefits of different types of social connection. Given similarities in the literature, some argue that increased social engagement through intergenerational play can support better health and decreased cognitive decline among older adults.
In an effort to promote intergenerational play, researchers and advocates can build on common day-to-day opportunities that allow for children and older adults to interact. For instance, those interested in intergenerational play may embed puzzles at bus stops or local parks that give older adults the opportunity to tell children stories about their life experiences. As another example, grocery stores can create games where older adults can discuss and share their favorite foods and recipes from their childhood with children. Intergenerational play can even be used as an opportunity to brainstorm additional ideas on how to engage in more intergenerational play. With a little imagination and opportunity, ideas on how to engage in intergenerational play are endless.
Want to keep up with recent research that’s relevant to aging services? Use the form below to subscribe to our monthly InvestigAge email.
Katz, I., & Gibbs, H. M. (2023, January 30). Playful learning creates multigenerational opportunities with intergenerational impacts. Brookings. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/education-plus-development/2023/01/30/playful-learning-creates-multigenerational-opportunities-with-intergenerational-impacts/