When we ask ourselves to think differently and tackle challenges from a new angle, true innovation can come about. We took this principle to heart as we thought through our approach to funding intergenerational programming, and we knew we needed to challenge people to be innovative and think creatively, without barriers.
This led us to issue our first “Request for Ideas” in September: Connecting Generations, Strengthening Communities, geared toward organizations interested in implementing intergenerational programs in Central Texas that engage older adults to come together with younger generations to share skills, needs, and experiences with each other while also addressing critical community issues.
“We believe magic can happen with intergenerational work where there is dual reciprocity between older and younger generations: everybody wins.”
-St. David’s Foundation Senior Program Officer Andrew Levack
Today there are roughly 220,000 people age 65 or older living in the Foundation’s five-county Central Texas area (Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson), and that number will quadruple by 2050. As the aging population grows, more older adults will be seeking ways to remain productive and connected to their communities. At the same time, younger generations can benefit greatly through the support, stimulation, and mentorship that older adults can provide.
More than three decades of research has led to compelling evidence of the effectiveness of intergenerational programs, and these programs can address specific targeted concerns (such as low literacy and caregiver stress), while having broader personal impact among participating individuals, including improved self-esteem and social connection. Social connection is incredibly important and can be a key driver of health and sustainable change. When facing a health-related crisis, the presence of informal networks of support can be as beneficial as having access to social services. Social connections build strong, supportive communities. And strong, supportive communities create health.
The response to our “Request for Ideas” was incredible, with a total of 59 ideas submitted from groups across Central Texas, and of those, 13 were ultimately chosen to receive grants. Many of the ideas that were chosen are brand new, and we know that there will need to be some revision and adaptation over time to make these programs successful, but we are happy that these groups are taking a risk and see the value in bringing these new, generation-connecting ideas to the table.
On February 25th, we were honored to celebrate our new partners at Family Eldercare’s Lyons Gardens, an East Austin apartment complex for older adults that’s not only full of wraparound services and activity space, but also has a playground. Family Eldercare is also a recipient of an intergenerational grant, and will be partnering with their next door neighbor organization LifeWorks to create programming that includes both the young families who live at LifeWorks and older adults at Lyons Gardens.
Marva Overton, Executive Director of the Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas spoke at the event about her pilot program currently underway: Soul to Soul, an intergenerational gardening program. At its core, the program pairs youth with older adults to help maintain gardens at senior homes. But, it’s much more meaningful that that. In Overton’s words: “I knew there were many benefits to this approach, including physical activity for youth and seniors and access to healthy food. We also focus on teaching about food justice, policy, and the rich history and tradition of farming in the Black culture. Most importantly, is the connection created between younger and older adult.”
We know that these grants are just the start of an intergenerational movement happening in Central Texas, which is positioned to impact community change. Through the critical work of our grantees, we aim to improve the lives of older adults, children, and their families, ultimately strengthening the bonds within our communities.
Alliance for African American Health in Central Texas will be implementing a program entitled Soul to Soul, which will offer intergenerational gardening.
Austin Area Urban League will conduct a youth-led production of digital histories of older adults entitled Sitting at Our Elder’s Feet.
Austin Bat Cave will offer a Healthy Generations program, which will consist of journaling and creative writing in Del Valle and Lockhart schools.
Bastrop County Cares will be implementing the Bastrop County Intergenerational Project, which will allow older adults the opportunity to volunteer in Bastrop Public Schools.
BookSpring will host a series of Retiree Read Aloud Round Ups, bringing in older adults as readers into early childhood care centers.
Capital Broadcasting Association (KMFA) will begin the Star Notes Project, which will convene RBJ Residents and Martin Middle School students for music listening sessions and a radio documentary.
Catholic Charities of Central Texas will provide supportive services for grandparents raising vulnerable children in rural communities through its Strengthening Rural Grandfamilies program.
El Buen Samaritano will develop an intergenerational photovoice program called Juntos: Sharing Our Stories.
Family Eldercare will provide shared support for residents of Lyons Gardens and LifeWorks through its Connecting Neighbors Across Generations program.
Golden Age Home Assisted Living will implement a program to reduce social isolation in older adults while improving education outcomes for children and youth.
IDEA Public Schools will implement Mentor-opolis!, a program that will mobilize older adults as mentors for academic readiness of K-3rd graders at IDEA Schools.
Latino Healthcare Forum will be developing an “Abuelos” program, in which community health workers will train older adults to serve as “Abuelos” for students at Allison Elementary.
Urban Roots will implement the Listen. Grow. Share. program, which will offer intergenerational storytelling for community action and food access in Dove Springs.