For the past 19 years, Generations United has hosted a Global Intergenerational Conference, providing an opportunity for professionals from all over the world to learn, network and share about innovative research, policies, and practices in the intergenerational field. This year, the conference was held in Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Catholic Home had the opportunity to present the exciting intergenerational work we are doing to a global audience.
Milwaukee Catholic Home has long been a model of innovative and integrated intergenerational programming. MCH residents have opportunities every week to participate in great intergenerational events and activities with children from our onsite daycare and the many schools who partner with us.
Over the past two years, MCH has launched the groundbreaking Intergenerational Education Program, a collaboration with Messmer Catholic Schools and supported by Bader Philanthropies. The goal of the program is to bring older adults and students together to learn from each other through a six-week series of classes, presentations and activities tied to the school’s curriculum.
At the 2017 Global Intergenerational Conference, MCH was invited to present on this program as part of the Midwest Showcase. Three staff members and nine MCH residents took part in the presentation. Bridget McNair, MCH’s Director of Recreation Therapy and the program’s creator, said that she expected to be taking the lead, but ended up stepping back and letting the residents tell their own story. “They were so passionate about this program, and wanted to share it with conference participants themselves!” Bridget said.
Older adult participants in the program contribute to the educational process by teaching students about a topic that relates to their unique gifts and life experiences. Many of the MCH residents who presented at the conference brought along the tools they had used to teach students: one resident brought mandarin oranges, which he had used to teach the students about fractions, while another brought a handout with the quote: “The most important tool YOU have is your ability to THINK!” Another resident handed conference attendees collectible rubber bracelets, like the ones received by student and older adult participants at the end of the program to commemorate their time together. All the residents were eager to share their experiences and their enthusiasm for the program.
MCH’s Intergenerational Education Program has also been the subject of formal study, and data analysis from the two sessions of the program show significant findings indicating that the program has a positive impact on both student and older adult participants. Student participants show an increase in their positive views of aging, and older adult participants show a decrease in symptoms of depression.
Click here to enjoy a video slideshow capturing some of the great moments from this year’s Intergenerational Education Program!