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Stanford University School of Medicine

A call for intergenerational engagement: New report urges linking children with older adults

Sports: Senior volunteer coaches underprivileged children.Bringing older adults and children together can offer both groups big benefits, a new Stanford report concludes.

"There is growing reason to think that older people may be just the resource children need," said Laura Carstensen, PhD, who led the report and is the founding director of the Stanford Center for Longevity. A Stanford News article explains:

The aging population has 'distinctive qualities to meet the needs of youth,' [Carstensen] and her co-authors wrote. 'Older adults are exceptionally suited to meet these needs in part because they welcome meaningful, productive activity and engagement. They seek – and need – purpose in their lives.'

As for older adults, the report pointed out, they benefit as well, experiencing emotional satisfaction in relationships with young people.

For children, relationships with older adults, as well as with their parents, offer some invaluable benefits:

Young adults require emotional skills to succeed in life, Carstensen said. These are the attitudes, behaviors and strategies required to operate as a productive adult in an increasingly complex and technical world. And they are the types of skills and experiences that older adults have in abundance due to their life experiences.


'Age-related increases in wisdom, life experiences and emotional stability are well-documented, as is a drive to give to others in a meaningful way,' she said.

Encouraging this "intergenerational engagement" will require societal change, although some projects that promote intergenerational volunteering are underway. The report was co-sponsored by and by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation.

Previously: A call to arms on aging: A conversation with Lesley Stahl and Laura CarstensenTED Talk with Laura Carstensen shows older adults have an edge on happiness and A look at aging and longevity in this "unprecedented" time in history
Photo by Pamela Moore/Getty Images

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