Bridging the generation gap

Two forums in Melbourne and Sydney are an opportunity to have your say on what should be done to bring older and younger people together.

Above: Roland Naufal

Keynote speakers are confirmed and the agenda has been set for two forums later this month that will discuss ways to bridge the ‘generation gaps’ in the community.

The agenda for the two discussions of ‘intergenerational spaces and programs’ in Melbourne and Sydney will be based on what those interested in attending the forums – mostly representatives of aged care and disability service providers, local governments, architects and town planners – told the organisers in a short survey.

The survey responses will be used as conversation-starters at the forums, which will be held in Melbourne on 24 September and Sydney on 28 September.

According to Roland Naufal, director of lead organiser 4C Consulting, around 100 people returned the surveys, which asked about the potential for new intergenerational programs and spaces, barriers to their establishment as well as successful past examples.

Mr Naufal said that a lot of the responses he received suggested volunteering programs as a good way for older and younger people to work together, and that this could happen through partnerships between schools and aged care facilities.

“There were ideas for volunteering for people of all ages in the community  and younger people volunteering in residential aged care,” Mr Naufal states in a summary of the survey results. “A number of people suggested that older people could work as mentors for younger people and offer leadership support and help with homework.”

“A large number of respondents suggested building and renovating current spaces so they can be used for people of all ages and abilities, whether it be for formal intergenerational programs or informal interactions,” Mr Naufal’s report continues. “This could be in the form of a community centre that houses a seniors activity centre and a gym.”

There were also suggestions that “innovative housing models that include spaces for all generations and house people of all ages” could help bringing people of all ages together, and that childcare facilities and schools could be co-located with retirement villages.

In terms of barriers to setting up intergenerational programs, respondents cited ageist attitudes – among both older people and younger people – as well the difficulty of building meaningful relationships in short-term organised activities and the challenge of finding activities that both older and younger generations find appealing.

Other major issues were the familiar difficulties of managing legal risk and securing adequate and recurrent funding – which is often earmarked separately for programs targeted at older and younger people.

“There is also competition within organisations for funding,” the survey of prospective forum attendees found. 

“Often it can be difficult for those funds to be allocated to intergenerational programs and spaces when people feel they need to be allocated elsewhere in the organisation.”

The final question asked for examples of successful intergenerational programs and spaces that could be discussed, and from the responses, Mr Naufal identified the top five types that work best.

Programs that involve physical activity, creative expression or a combination of the two are successful, according to the survey, as are those based in schools, or those that involve telling personal stories from the past.

Successful intergenerational spaces have often made use of community buildings to offer activities that appeal to the different generations all in one place, or have involved housing projects aimed at people of all ages.

To register for the two forums on intergenerational programs and spaces where these ideas will be discussed, or for more information, visit:

Tags: intergenerational, volunteering,

2 thoughts on “Bridging the generation gap

  1. Many moons ago I was the director of the writing programs at RMIT. I still have an interest in creativity but these days drive it into looking at ways to transfer older workers knowledge and raise workplace productivity by retaining older workers.

    One of the key strengths of a narrative approach to writing or multimedia is that it can be collaborative. Younger people are strong in building online media and older people have great stories to tell. At RMIT we frequently had pairs of older and younger students working together to create both the narratives and design for websites and hard copy publications.

  2. this really a great idea to bring up the younger and elder together. If younger help the elder then they will get to know them more closely.this would be a great step taken by the residential aged care help.

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