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Meaningful connections with elders can help teenagers with their mental health and confidence

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The series Old People’s Homes for Teenagers has inspired teachers to take their students’ learning outside the classroom and share it with older people in aged care homes and retirement villages.

The Australian Institute for Intergenerational Practice (associated with Griffith University) is a knowledge resource hub and training centre for intergenerationalism. It reports burgeoning inspirational programs between schools and groups of older people across Australia.

“Intergenerational learning” programs connect students in classrooms with older people to have conversations, share experiences, trade jokes, sing, dance and participate in arts and craft activities together. School curriculum topics are integrated into these interactions.

Intergenerational learning programs are relatively easy to facilitate when both age groups are in the same area or via videoconferencing.

You can often recognise participants in these programs by their smiles, which are wide and long like a summer’s day.

For many older people, these programs are a highlight of their week — an opportunity to transcend the drudgery of the day.

For teenagers, they are opportunities to connect with someone who they perceive is perhaps more vulnerable than themselves, and this is a positive experience.

Teenagers can benefit in many ways from intergenerational connections

The findings from interviews by Intergenerational Learning Australia show that regular guided conversations between students and older people enable meaningful connections, mental stimulation and a new sense of purpose.

For teenagers, conversations with older people about their learning or school happenings is a fresh way to connect with a “real audience” and “real purpose”.

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