Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dance Generators West

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, we feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs.

In the latest of series, we feature Dance Generators West, based in San Francisco. 

(Check our archives for parts 1-29.)

Dance Generators West is a part of the University of San Francisco's Department of Performing Arts and Social Justice. 


Company members range in age from their teens through their eighties.

The Company believes that the combinations of physical and creative energies found in dance succeeds in motivating and inspiring activity and interaction between people of all ages who are at times, isolated from one another.

Through dance, the company shatters commonly held stereotypes about ageing, and creates bridges between people of all ages. Dance Generators show audiences that people who have been in motion for over 50 years bring unique qualities to dance.

Our performances combine improvisation, choreographed work, and audience participation. 

Dance Generators introduce audiences to the tools and skills used in creating dances. They explore the process of dance-making through interactive activities and demonstrations.

Dance Generators’ performances show that people at any age can be physically and artistically vital. Through individual and group expression and movement, ideas and stories are shared that transcend age differences.

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Why not tweet your cool intergenerational ideas to #cooligideas? You can also post them to our Intergenerational Connections Facebook Group or just text us through the Facebook Messenger app (friend me to join our Cool Intergenerational Ideas group discussion). We want to highlight innovative age-optimized programs and practices through our blog, social media and weekly e-newsletter! Share the inspiration.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Carlisle, Massachusetts: A Small Town for All Ages - 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities

Halloween Parade
It wasn't Carlisle’s cranberry bog, state park or its 1,000 acres of conservation land that attracted long-time resident Thomas Dunkers to the small suburb 35 years ago.

It was the Strawberry Festival in the court yard of the Unitarian Church. That day, watching residents of all generations laughing together as they waited on their strawberry shortcake ice creams, Dunkers said the sight was picturesque. 

“It reminded me of a Norman Rockwell painting,” the 81-year-old said. “I fell in love with Carlisle.”

That community spirit goes back to the first Old Home Day in 1912. Today, the annual event brings together its 5,400-plus neighbors for intergenerational road races, parade and awards ceremony for its young scholars, older conservationists and outstanding citizens.

Patti Russo, a Board member with the Carlisle Council on Aging, recalls the free pancake breakfast at the Congregational Church – the lines of children, teens, parents and grandparents waiting in the church parking lot as they take in the sweet aromas of pancakes. 

Strawberry Festival Workers
“Between the pancake breakfast and the awards ceremony,” Russo explained, “residents can deliver baked good for the pie and cake contest.” All cakes are given out as prizes at the legendary cake walk.

The memories are enough to make Carlotte Copp, a college student living in Portland, Oregon, homesick for Carlisle.

“Carlisle constantly has events where generations mix, and that is what makes it great,” she recalled. She misses “the connectedness of Carlisle and the at-home feeling.” 

The community’s connectedness is ensured by several organizations including the Council on Aging and the Intergenerational Task Force. 

The Council on Aging programs budget line item helps to support intergenerational activities. Other sources included Carlisle and State Cultural Council Grants, the Friends of the Carlisle Council on Aging, the Gleason Public Library and the Concord-Carlisle Community Chest.

Another factor that makes Carlisle an age-advantaged community is the fact that the town’s older adult housing facility is sandwiched between the elementary school and the Gleason Public Library. 

Old Home Day Festival
“We think of ourselves as somewhat of a throwback to an earlier, agrarian time,” explains Kerry Kissinger, a Board member with the Friends of Carlisle Council.

The “agrarian time” Kissinger conjures up is one of a town without stoplight and neighbors passing the time at the general store.

“The library is the community center and senior citizens are the crossing guards after school,” he recalled. “We love our little town and try very hard to keep it safe and inclusive while still welcoming new and diverse residents.”

While Carlisle has always had what they call “informal” intergenerational programs – Strawberry Festival or Old Home Day – such events don’t always promote direct engagement between older adults and young people.

“Once people in town experienced the beauty and power of such formal intergenerational interactions, they wanted more,” recalled Patti Russo, with the Carlisle Council on Aging. “That’s when we thought of creating new programs and modifying existing one to make them intergenerational.”

Over the past 10 years, Carlisle established more programs – such as the Community Chorus and Intergenerational Poetry Group – designed specifically to get generations together. 

Each year, Carlisle’s 6th graders serve pasta to nearly 
1,000 Carlisle residents ranging in age from 2 to 102.
Even still, when Carlisle heard about the Best Communities Awards in 2013, they considered applying, but decided they needed more time.

“The extra year gave us time to assemble an intergenerational task force and thoroughly research what was happening on the intergenerational front in Carlisle,” explained Russo, a member of the Carlisle Intergenerational Task Force. 

“We have a significant number of successful intergenerational programs already, but I believe there is room for more.”

On the morning of Dec. 20, she was on her way out the door when she got the news that Carlisle is a 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Award-winner. 

Russo shared the news with her family, the intergenerational task force and other town officials. The Jan. 9 issue of the Carlisle Mosquito ran a front-page story on the award.

“I was thrilled,” Russo recalled, “the extra adrenaline…made it difficult to sleep for a couple of nights!”

Intergenerational Preschool Poetry program
She hopes the 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Award will get town partners fired up about intergenerational work and build off that momentum for more programs.

Organizations like the Savoyard Light Opera Company and the Carlisle Community Chorus put 17-year-old Reilly in touch with older adults.

“Each week,” she explained, “I would look forward to the conversations I would have with my fellow choir members and what I would learn from them, both in life and in singing.”

Those interactions make Thomas Dunkers, the 81-year-old resident, happy he made Carlisle his home 35 years ago.

“I have strong feelings about the importance of having an intergenerational community,” he said. “Having intergenerational activities generates understanding and enriches everyone.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greater Plymouth Area, Wisconsin: Collaborating for a Common Purpose - 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities

Collaboration is the lifeblood of Greater Plymouth Area, Wisconsin. Every success story there is about a community pulling together to help all ages.

In 1985, they developed their first intergenerational program after Here We Grow Child Care Center mixed their activities with the Plymouth Senior Center, South Horizons Apartments and Valley Manor Nursing Home.

Today, the intergenerational activities are at Generations, a 28,000-square-foot facility on a seven-acre campus.
Middle school students, bused there after classes, play board games, Wii, pool and ping pong with the older adults.

Longtime resident, Doreen Salkowski, remembered teaching three teens how to play Canasta, a card game from Uruguay.

“Boy, they struggled, but they felt accomplished when they were finished!” Salkowski explained. “They still tell me how they enjoyed learning to play.”

The Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition’s Programming Committee, which meets monthly, suggests programs, monitors levels of intergenerational activities and shares information to build community awareness.

Donald Krauss – a longtime resident moved by the community's work for all ages – left the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition, the library and the Plymouth Senior Center nearly $600,000 in his will. 

“He really believed in Greater Plymouth Area’s intergenerational concept,” explained Marsha Vollbrecht, Generations founder. 

Donna Counselman, a retired educator, saw first-hand an intergenerational activity transform an older adult, who once held negative stereotypes of teens.

“Sometimes the news makes me think that all teenagers are bad people,” the woman told Counselman. After watching 13-year-olds in the Head Start Pals group read to 3-year-olds, she said: “I certainly can see this is not the case in our community!”

Another activity all ages enjoy is the New Year’s Eve “Cheese Drop”.

“There is free coffee and hot chocolate for revelers who brave the cold and come downtown,” Vollbrecht recalled. 

Greater Plymouth Area knew they qualified for the 2015 Best Intergenerational Community Awards

“We are not shy about sharing successes,” noted Joann Van Horn Wieland, executive director of Generations.

A huge success is Generations, a $4.2 million project funded by a public/private campaign that brought all ages together through through bake sales, collecting aluminum cans, and a community party with raffles and a silent auction. 

Funds were raised from large companies and donors, along with a few dollars donated by every day citizens.

Additionally, $1.1 million came from a stimulus grant and $15,000 came from the State of Wisconsin Department of Commerce, which was established to help with a community needs assessment.

The local restaurants got involved, hosting “Guest Bartender” nights, where residents worked the bars. In exchange, the restaurants offered matching funds. 

When Generations paid off its mortgage two years after it opened, all ages celebrated with a mortgage-burning party.

“We are very proud of what we have worked on for so many years,” explained Wieland, who also noted the Endowment Fund the community established for its intergenerational programs.

Greater Plymouth Area is still in high spirits since the news of being a 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Award winner.

“I was so thrilled,” Wieland recalled, “that I was hugging people, sharing the news with seniors in our exercise classes.”

When she shared the news at the Board meeting, Vollbrecht, Generations founder, jumped out of her seat and cheered.

Greater Plymouth Area hopes the award will bring more financial resources from existing and new partners.

Generations United 2015 Intergenerational State of the Union Response

“I want future generations to know that we are a people who see our differences as a great gift, that we are a people who value the dignity and worth of every citizen — man and woman, young and old, black and white, Latino and Asian, immigrant and Native American, gay and straight, Americans with mental illness or physical disability.”

Tuesday night, President Obama’s State of the Union Address highlighted why intergenerational cooperation, understanding, protection and support underpin our country’s strength and its future.

In addressing our changing demographics, the President rightly recognizes that our differences are “a great gift.” Young people of color will drive the future growth in our workforce, and their ability to earn good livings will strengthen Social Security and the safety net on which young and old depend.

Making Affordable High-Quality Childcare a Must-Have
We applaud the President’s plan, which calls for more investments in children and families. It will do this by creating more childcare slots and a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child annually. Affordable high-quality childcare is a must-have because children with quality early experiences are 29 percent more likely to graduate high school. They also grow up to become adults more likely to be employed and earn 33 percent more than the average salary. Those returns on investment are a huge win for Americans, especially since children in quality early experiences are 70 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime before the age of 18. Generations United’s Seniors4Kids get this and that’s why they raise their voices on behalf of investments in children.

Pushing for States to Adopt Paid Leave Laws
In speaking to the need for paid leave, the President rightly identified some of the tough decisions working grandfamilies are faced with, explaining that “…too many parents [are forced] to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.” A bill that lets every worker earn seven days of paid sick leave helps the 58 percent of the 2.7 million grandparents responsible for grandchildren who are working. A law allowing workers to earn paid leave is just the beginning. To best support grandfamilies Congress must move policies to better coordinate and enhance services for children and youth in relative care, evaluate and collect data on kinship diversion and prevention models, and preserve existing flexible funding sources. Not only is supporting families a must-have, but as the President said: “It’s the right thing to do.”

Making Community College Free
To boost our economy, the President called on Congress to pass legislation that makes community college free to help those “young and starting out” as well as those “older and looking for a better job.” We applaud President Obama for wanting to make free community college as universal “…as high school is today.” Generations United urges policymakers to go even further and reinstate the Student Benefit, which extended Social Security child benefits that helped thousands of young adults pursue higher education. Reinstating the Student Benefit helps today’s students become the educated workforce our country’s economy needs.

Throughout his remarks, the President called on all Americans to work together towards a common ground. President Obama cited examples with the 50th anniversary of the march from Selma to Montgomery, which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led to advocate voting rights for African-Americans living in Alabama.

This past weekend, Generations United challenged older adults to take a young person to see Selma and have a discussion about the Voting Rights Act, one way of passing down the value of civic engagement. Policymakers should go even further and incentivize 100 percent voter turnout through state competition. They can also allow same-day registration for voting nationwide and promote participatory budgeting experiments at the federal, state and local levels.

Over and over again, the President used the tight-knit family metaphor for America. Generations United agrees that young and old should stand united as an interdependent American family. Why? Because we are stronger together.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Lutheran Home

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, we feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs.

In the latest of series, we feature The Lutheran Home, located in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

(Check our archives for parts 1-28.)

The Lutheran Home is over 100 years old. They house skilled care nursing units, memory care assisted units, a rehabilitation unit with therapy services located down the hall, an adult day service department and a children's center in our building.

The children's center opened in 1991, and began intergenerational activities right from the start. The children's center is NAEYC accredited.

Today, all the children, infants through 4K, have planned intergenerational activities at least two or three times each week.

They spend time for the intergenerational activities with the adult day participants, the residents from memory care and from the skilled nursing units.

The recreation therapy staff, memory care and adult day services program coordinators and children's center teachers meet and plan the intergenerational activities together.

There are also special events throughout the year that are available to all.

Annually, they host a spring art fair, featuring children's, adults and intergenerational art, with a gallery open to all residents, participants, children and their families.

In fall, they host an outdoors carnival for all children, participants, residents and their families, with games and food for all ages.

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Why not tweet your cool intergenerational ideas to #cooligideas? You can also post them to our Intergenerational Connections Facebook Group or just text us through the Facebook Messenger app (friend me to join our Cool Intergenerational Ideas group discussion). We want to highlight innovative age-optimized programs and practices through our blog, social media and weekly e-newsletter! Share the inspiration.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

GrandMentor

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, we feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs.

In the latest of series, we feature GrandMentor, an online program that uses Skype.

(Check our archives for parts 1-27.)

GrandMentor connects American seniors and elementary school children in a mutually beneficial relationship to promote successful aging and education.

Our venture pairs disadvantaged children who have Internet access at school and/or home with at-home or at-day center volunteer senior citizens by using free videoconferencing (i.e. Skype) tools and proprietary teaching guides specific to high quality children’s literature.

The social impact is two-fold: (1) Children improve academic achievement with free personalized literacy tutoring. (2) Senior volunteers prevent cognitive decline/isolation by giving back. 

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Why not tweet your cool intergenerational ideas to #cooligideas? You can also post them to our Intergenerational Connections Facebook Group or just text us through the Facebook Messenger app (friend me to join our Cool Intergenerational Ideas group discussion). We want to highlight innovative age-optimized programs and practices through our blog, social media and weekly e-newsletter! Share the inspiration.