Written by: Kent Marume, Program Analyst
As a former Kizuna participant and having previously worked at JACCC, I have always been involved with youth-centered programming and have incorporated it into my community work. Being part of the Keiro team now, I want to bridge what I have been doing with what my current role is. As we completed our partnered program with Kizuna’s Service Learning in February of 2020, it’s been a truly humbling experience to witness the power of intergenerational programs in action. We saw high school and college students engage in conversations with older adults they most likely would have never interacted with. We overheard conversations between individuals talking about everything from their time in incarceration camps to their favorite bento.
One of my favorite interactions was when three youth participants were in conversation with two residents. One of the residents initially expressed not wanting to be at this activity and would have rather been at a different activity. This same resident acted as an interpreter between the resident next to her and the students. By the end of the workshop though, the two residents were laughing and smiling with the students. Before leaving the activity, she told the participants that she made the right decision to attend this activity because it was more fun than she had imagined.
I feel that the need for intergenerational programming is so important, especially because exchanges and connections like these between youth and older adults do not happen on a regular basis (aside from maybe interacting with grandparents). These opportunities help equip the next generation with the necessary skills about communication and best practices, through hands-on programming and training. And it goes both ways, right? Older adults and aging populations can practice receiving different forms of communication from younger generations, and stimulate their minds.
The next generation of youth are the future of family and informal caregivers. I’m hoping that through this experience, this generation will have a good experience learning how to empathize with older adults, and will use Keiro as a point of reference for the future if they need resources for enhancing their own caregiving experience.
Overall, as the wave of Boomers are aging, I hope to see the future of intergenerational programming as an ever-growing need that all organizations should highly consider and implement. So let’s grab coffee and put our heads together to plan for the future of what community programming could look like!