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Intergenerational Strategies Are Helping Cities Meet Critical Challenges

Corita Brown January 14, 2020
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Encore.org’s new report showcases the nation’s leading Gen2Gen Cities.

For years, leading thinkers and organizations have been trying to convince others that the aging of America isn’t so much a problem to be solved as it is an opportunity to be seized.

Today, Encore.org released #Gen2Gen Cities, a guide that showcases city and county leaders across the country who agree. These public sector innovators engage their aging populations in intergenerational strategies that help meet critical challenges—affordable housing, nonprofit capacity, kindergarten readiness, and much more—by bringing generations together.

Here are a few examples:

  • In New York City, nonprofit and city leaders launched an effort to pair youth living in homeless shelters with low-income older adults who have an extra room. The goal: to help stabilize two of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
  • The County of San Diego’s Intergenerational Games promote healthy behaviors for youth and older adults in the face of the growing issues of social isolation, obesity, diabetes and heart disease for both generations.
  • In Springfield, Missouri, a program city officials launched to increase nonprofit capacity and provide older adults with purpose and connection is so successful that adults eager to find a volunteer opportunity sign up more than a month in advance, and area nonprofits are on a waiting list to speak to them.
  • In San Jose public libraries, bilingual “grandmas” are working to improve kindergarten readiness and support culturally specific early education programming for children 0-5 and caregivers.
  • In a public library in El Dorado Hills, California, high school students and retired adults jointly run a 3D print lab, creating prosthetic hands for a nonprofit that distributes them to people around the world who need them.
  • And, in a nod to the power of city innovation, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership created Mayors for Mentors to showcase what mayors across the country are doing to expand mentoring opportunities for young people in their communities.

By leveraging the assets of residents of all ages and connecting the generations, these leaders are helping to build stronger ties, foster greater empathy, make better use of public spaces, increase volunteerism and save money, all while improving outcomes for residents of all ages.

That’s innovation, Gen2Gen style!

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is a leading supporter of intergenerational strategies, the force behind Gen2Gen San Jose, and the author of the report’s foreword.

“We live in an incredibly wealthy community called Silicon Valley, but within that prosperity is real poverty, financial and otherwise,” Liccardo writes. “We don’t have all the financial resources we need to solve these problems—no city does. But we are rich in human resources. Through Gen2Gen San Jose, we’re tapping our older neighbors’ time and talent to support preschoolers in family resource centers, to coach teens through first jobs, to help young adults take their first steps toward careers, even to make our city government work better.”

#Gen2Gen Cities provides readers with details about intergenerational innovations taking place in 17 cities and counties, tips from the public servants who got the ball rolling, and recommendations for those eager to try intergenerational strategies in their own communities.

The ultimate goal: to help city and county leaders create cost-effective, creative solutions to local challenges, while addressing the deep need in all of our communities to build meaningful relationships, bridge historic divides, and combat a national epidemic of loneliness and isolation.

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Corita Brown

Corita Brown, PhD is the director of innovation and learning at Encore.org. She provides strategic advising and facilitation for nonprofit organizations, institutions and local governments eager to innovate, develop and scale strategies for connecting the generations. Encore.org is a national nonprofit working to realize the potential of longer lives and intergenerational connection to create a better future.

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