Past intergenerational exchange activities.
In this paper, we discuss the Yugaku Hiroba intergenerational exchange program activities that have been carried out to date with community-dwelling older adults and university students, as well as the results of questionnaires completed by the participating older adults and students who ran the activities. We also interviewed 10 participating older adults to determine what significance a gathering place, such as that provided in the intergenerational exchange program, has in their daily lives. The results revealed that participating in intergenerational exchange activities led to feelings of usefulness and satisfaction, as well as enjoyment in their daily lives as a result of connecting with others and interacting with students from a younger generation. Support is needed to help continue these activities and provide opportunities for intergenerational exchange activities that allow people to live their lives in their own way with a sense of reassurance.
- intergenerational exchange
- care prevention
The older population is growing every year in Japan. As the birthrate continues to decline and the population continues to age, the aging rate is expected to hit 33.4% in 2035, meaning that one in three people will be 65 or older. This presents a serious problem. Japan’s policy involves implementing programs for measures such as strengthening long-term care prevention and building community-based integrated care systems to enable older adults to live out their lives in the communities that they know well. Support activities led by community residents are also being discussed, and activities in which the community protects the livelihoods of its older members are being implemented.
Following revisions to the Long-Term Care Insurance System in 2012, a new comprehensive long-term care prevention and daily life support program was created. The long-term care prevention measures to be adopted going forward purport to develop living environments aimed at creating places and opportunities for older adults to feel a sense of purpose and play a role in the community. Another objective is to create a region that will allow people to continue living in the community with a sense of purpose and provide them with roles to play even after they begin needing long-term care. In addition, the program recommends the pursuit of community-building by holding resident-led activities, such as exercise programs, throughout the region and continuing to create and expand gathering places where people can connect.
Since the 2016 academic year, intergenerational exchange activities have been held for healthy adults aged 65 and older who live near the university. These activities are mostly led by students in the College of Social Welfare who aspire to be care workers and their teachers. Intergenerational exchange activities include crafts (such as making pressed flower cards or lanterns), light exercise, and games. The participants interact with the students during the activities so that the latter can deepen their connections with older adults in the community. The students oversee the program planning with the assistance of their teachers. They review the day’s program after it has finished and make improvements to create even better programs in the future. The following is a report on the main activities.
2. Objectives of the activities
The main objective for the students’ activities is for them to improve their communication skills and acquire planning and management skills for activities and programs.
The objective for the older adults participating in this program is to provide activities that are intended to help them continue living in the communities that they know well and to create places they can drop by easily. For older adults, continuing to live in the communities that they know well and participating in community activities may lead to the creation of new roles for them to play, a greater sense of purpose, and a more stimulating social life.
3. Recruitment of participants
Participants are recruited by the placement of posters in local community centers and other public facilities to help spread information about the events more widely.
As a measure for controlling COVID-19 infections, posters have not been put up in public facilities since the 2020 academic year; instead, repeat participants have been sent postcards and asked to book activities in advance.
4. Activity report
4.1 Past activities
Activities were also held at campus festivals, such as posting activity reports and setting up a traditional game area for students to interact with local residents (Table 1).
|Year||No. of sessions||Activities||Total no. of peoples|
|2006||1||Flower seedling planting||15|
|2007||6||Walking rally, ||94|
|2008||8||Nursing care class, pétanque, flower seedling planting, etc.||124|
|2010||4||Flower seedling planting, Christmas party, New Year decoration making, etc.||67|
|2011||4||Intro quiz game, ball toss, paper fan making, New Year greeting card making, etc.||53|
|2012||6||Picture postcard making, rock painting, traditional games, etc.||82|
|2013||7||Health sports competition, small stand making, mini Christmas tree making, etc.||122|
|2014||7||Treasure hunt, pressed flower card making, summer festival (stalls), etc.||134|
|2016||7||Keychain making, ||135|
|2017||7||Mini sports competition, strikeout game, ||130|
|2018||7||Scavenger hunt, telephone game, marbled postcard making, winter sports competition, etc.||136|
|2019||7||Flower seedling planting, windmill making, hand bath and foot bath experience, yoga, etc.||167|
|2020||4||Tote bag decorating, flower seedling planting, wreath making, etc.||55|
|2021||6||Small hanging scroll making, summer festival (balloon yo-yo fishing, ring toss, and cutouts), etc.||86|
4.2 Results of post-activity questionnaires for participants
Participants were given questionnaires after every event to evaluate the activities. They responded positively every time, saying that the activities were “Good” or “Excellent.” In the free comment space, they left feedback such as the following to express how much they enjoyed the activities and spending time with the students: “The exercise made me feel refreshed and energized,” “I had so much fun surrounded by wonderful students,” “I’m very happy that the activities are always fun,” “I hope I’ll be healthy enough to take part again next year too,” “The exchange event with students made me feel energized,” “I enjoyed playing the traditional games,” “I enjoyed the hand bath and foot bath experience,” “Thank you for teaching me some nursing care techniques,” and “I had been looking forward to it.”
4.3 Results of post-activity questionnaires for students
Sixteen students planned and ran the activities held in the 2020 academic year. The questionnaire results indicate that 69% improved their communication skills, 69% improved their planning skills, 88% gained a deeper understanding of older adults, and 94% gained a feeling of satisfaction from the activities. In addition, 87% of the students said that continuing the Yugaku Hiroba activities is essential. The fact that comments such as the following were left in the free comment section proved that the students had reflected on what they learned in the activities: “The most motivating aspect was the joy it gave the participants,” “I learned about the difficulty of planning and running activities and about the importance of preparation,” “I can be more proactive now,” and “I learned from how other students interacted and approached the participants.” They also saw the Yugaku Hiroba activities as providing “an opportunity for exchanges,” “an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of older adults and to grow,” “an opportunity to interact with older people in the community,” and “a place for older people and students to interact as well as a place for older people to meet at Yugaku Hiroba and develop friendships.” This shows that, while running the activities, the students saw the Yugaku Hiroba as a place to learn through exchanges with local residents and a place to interact.
5. Results and discussion of interviews about the program as a means of providing a gathering place for older adults and students
Interviews were held to determine what significance a gathering place such as that provided in the intergenerational exchange program has for community-dwelling older adults in their daily lives.
5.1 Subjects and survey methods
Ten men and women who have been participating in the university’s intergenerational exchange program (Yugaku Hiroba) for 3 years or more were interviewed individually after their consent had been obtained during the period from July 21 to October 20, 2017. Three of the subjects were men and seven were women. Three were in their 70s and seven were in their 80s.
5.2 Analysis methods
Using a qualitative design, we described the data obtained in the interviews systematically, with data that could be grouped together under certain meanings through association being categorized into analysis worksheets. Each categorized worksheet was given a concept title and definition.
6. Analytical results
In Table 2, we showed the resulting analysis worksheet.
|(1)||Agreement of mutual benefit||The older adults do not usually interact with younger people other than their grandchildren and they see the intergenerational exchanges as providing a good means of interaction for both themselves and the students.|
|(2)||The only place to meet younger people||Although the older adults regularly interact with their grandchildren and other young people, they have few opportunities to interact proactively and they look forward to having a chance to interact with the students.|
|(3)||Being able to talk and be heard||The older adults enjoy the students paying attention to them and listening to their stories and they gain satisfaction from being heard.|
|(4)||Acting as a kind of resource for younger people||The older adults feel positive about being a kind of resource for the younger generation and feel useful.|
6.1 Agreement of mutual benefit
One of the older adults said that the program offers a good opportunity for both the older participants and the students.
When asked if he interacts with younger people other than his grandchildren in everyday life, he responded by saying, “These opportunities are good for the students too and they prevent dementia in older people” (87-year-old man).
6.2 The only place to meet younger people
Nine of the older adults said that they do not interact with younger people other than their grandchildren anywhere else. One said that she interacts with her grandchildren but not with other young people “except when coming here” (78-year-old woman). When another older adult who said he “has no interactions with younger people” was asked how he feels about interacting with them, he responded by saying, “I enjoy it” (85-year-old man).
Seven of the older adults said that they felt positive about talking. Their comments included the following: “I think it’s nice that we can talk about different things” (87-year-old man); “I think it’s good that we can talk freely” (82-year-old woman); and “I often talk to young people and they listen to me, but it’s quite fun to talk in our own way” (79-year-old man).
6.4 Acting as a kind of resource for younger people
Two of the older adults talked about conveying their wisdom to younger people. He said, “I come to the intergenerational exchange activities because I think it’s good if I can be useful to young people. I think it’s good if our experiences flourish even just a little bit. When I talk to young people, I sometimes hear things I didn’t know” (79-year-old man).
7. Discussion based on the analysis results
When the participating older adults talked, the students listened attentively. Having younger people listen to them may give the older adults a chance to think about certain things and pass on their culture to the younger generation. According to N. Henkin , exchanges between older adults and the generation that will lead the future can boost the sense of community and become a kind of new resource through cooperative activities, leading to a better quality of life for all generations. This suggests that participating in intergenerational exchange activities as the only opportunity to meet younger people may be mutually beneficial and help turn older adults into a kind of resource that contributes to the students’ lives. In addition, as the only place where older adults can talk and be heard, the program may lead to the development of new communities and improve the quality of life. Furthermore, talking and having someone empathize with them may be comforting to the older adults and give them more energy in their everyday lives.
It can be difficult for older adults to enter the types of places that young people gather in ordinary settings. Since teachers are also involved in the intergenerational exchange program, older adults may feel safe participating in it. According to Nitta , the benefit of having coordinators involved is that they can organize and record experiences gained in the exchange activities, share those experiences with other care staff, ensure a stable continuity of activities, and encourage collaborations with various people and organizations. This suggests that having teachers act as coordinators to secure collaborations with various organizations and ensure a stable continuity of activities may be one source of security that helps older adults participate in the intergenerational exchange activities.
We found that intergenerational exchange opportunities allow older adults to connect with others and enjoy talking to students and being heard. Gathering places provide important opportunities (places to belong) for older adults.
For students, interacting with older adults fosters communication skills and teaches many other skills related to the running of programs. We will continue holding these meaningful activities.
9. Photos of activities
Activity photos were taken with participants and students, including gymnastics, creative activities, hand bathing, and yo-yo fishing. Also included is a group photo taken during the activity.
We would like to thank all of the older adults from the community that participated in this project and everyone who participated in the interview surveys.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Henkin N. Promoting Intergenerational Exchange Programs—L’esprit D’aujourd’hui Intergenerational Exchanges Create an Intergeneration Community. Japanese Shibundo Publishing; 2004. pp. 59-65
Nitta A, Ogata Y. Micro-Study on the Effects of Intergenerational Exchanges—Comprehensive Care for Older Adults and Children. Japanese Chuohoki Publishing Co.; 2000