Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon? It is up to 18 miles wide in some spots.
For some people, going from leading a senior living group to leading an intergenerational group sounds as though you are traversing that same distance. Looking at the needs, interests and social experiences of these ages may sound like a great divide.
Instead of looking at the divide, look for a bridge.
What bridge? Fact is, there are many. If you are a regular reader of this site, you already know one of the bridges. That bridge is music.
But, wait! Folks from different generations like and know different music. Right?
Time for a reality check. Folks of the SAME generation don’t necessarily like or know the same music.
Doesn’t that doom the music bridge to failure? Nope!
Think of all the ways you already bridge those differences in your single generation groups. The same way you spin one song into 6 sessions, you can spin music to bridge relationships, understanding and more within intergeneration sessions.
How do I build this bridge?
Folks have asked me a variety of questions about intergenerational groups. Here are the top 4 questions along with an answers.
Ice breakers for the first meeting?
A “hello song” is a good place to start. Rather than “forcing” folks to physically touch, I generally start with waving. Sharing names can also be good. (In some situations, name tags are helpful.)
My personal belief is the power of intergenerational groups is built across multiple connections. We all warm-up to new people and new situations at different speeds. True friendship takes time to develop. It is the same within these groups. Hello songs are standard in my groups.
How long are your groups?
It depends on what you are doing, with what groups, and the expected outcome.
Most of my groups are preschoolers with parents and senior living residents. The groups are held in the senior living community 40 minutes worked out to be about the correct length of time for these groups.
There are intergeneration groups which meet for several hours, possibly across meal times in some settings.
What books/resources are most helpful?
There are SO MANY resources out there. Here are my top 5 recommendations.
#1. Music Therapy and Geriatric Populations: This American Music Therapy Association resource includes thoughts on songs to use and approaches to take.
#2. Generations United: This organization holds an annual conference. They also highlight ideas through weekly emails. There website shares links to resources.
#3.Penn State Extension Intergenerational Program provides links to research, curricula, articles and more.
#4. This Pinterest board. Assorted finds are added to this board.
#5. Membership in Session Cafe. Members have access to over 30 session starters.
How many participants? What is the elders to student ratio?
Hate to break it to you, but there isn’t a single answer on this. The biggest pieces include:
- The space available for the group. Participants need space to move, to feel comfortable.
- The numbers of participants available. How you are getting one group to the location of another is a key factor.
- The support staff you have. You will need more than your hands and your voice as your group grows in size and as the level of dependence increases among the participants.
Come explore how you can plan senior living sessions in the time it takes you to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.