Toolkit for Intergenerational Programming in Senior Housing Released by LTSS Center @UMass Boston

May 9, 2019

Age-Friendly Communities interested in bringing intergenerational programming into senior housing now have a new toolkit from the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston and Generations United.

The Connecting Generations in Senior Housing: A Program Implementation Toolkit was supported by a grant from the Retirement Research Foundation (RRF) and provides practical information, guidance, and templates to help senior housing providers, and other organizations serving older adults, implement high-quality intergenerational programs that will benefit elders and young people in their communities.

“Senior housing can be an ideal setting to test and build valuable intergenerational programs,” says Dr. Taryn Patterson, LTSS Center policy research associate. “In collaboration with LeadingAge members, we’ve developed an easy-to-use resource based on real-life experiences of providers and residents. Our goal is to ensure that intergenerational programming becomes a part of every housing community in the country, and that housing professionals are able to build a network for sharing experiences as well as provide support and encouragement.”


The 82-page intergenerational toolkit, written by Patterson and Dr. Nancy Henkin, a senior fellow at Generations United, takes program organizers through the process of conceptualizing, implementing, and evaluating programs and activities that connect older housing residents with young people in the community. It offers:

  • Tools to start intergenerational programs, including organizational assessments and survey templates to assess resident interests.
  • Tools for designing high-quality programs, including concrete planning and implementation strategies and tips, ideas for short- and long-term activities, and examples of promising practices.
  • Tools to measure program success, including sample evaluation forms to help organizers determine whether a program is fulfilling its goals and understand its impact.

The toolkit represents 1 part of a 3-phase initiative that Generations United and the LTSS Center have undertaken to understand and promote intergenerational programming.

Starting in 2016, the 2 organizations explored the range and nature of intergenerational programming within senior housing. Findings from that research, published in full-length report and a research snapshot, suggested that there is a growing interest among housing providers in using intergenerational programming as a vehicle for:

  • Dispelling negative age-related stereotypes.
  • Preparing a future workforce for the field of aging services.
  • Improving the well-being of both older adults and youth.

During the second phase of their project, conducted in 2017, Generations United and the LTSS Center worked with staff and leaders of senior housing organizations to implement intergenerational pilot projects and develop the toolkit.

The third phase of the initiative, now underway, involves efforts to foster the scalability of intergenerational programming in senior housing by:

  • Disseminating the toolkit to a broad national audience.
  • Raising awareness about intergenerational programming and providing education about implementing those programs during webinars and in-person staff trainings at affordable housing organizations and presentations at national conferences.
  • Creating an online community of housing providers that are implementing or want to implement high-quality intergenerational programs.

Connecting Generations in Senior Housing: A Program Implementation Toolkit was created with help from leaders and program staff at 6 national affordable housing providers participating in a learning collaborative that supported its members as they piloted intergenerational programs. Group members reviewed and provided feedback on the project’s toolkit as they navigated each step of the planning, implementation, and evaluation process.

The programs implemented by members of the learning collaborate offer a good overview of the myriad possibilities and great potential of intergenerational programming in senior housing, says Patterson. She offers these examples:

Hebrew SeniorLife, a “thought partner” to the learning collaborative, offered advice to other members based on its ongoing intergenerational work. The organization’s partnership with a Jewish day school that is co-located on the campus of a Hebrew SeniorLife housing community in Dedham, MA, offers a great example of how to use physical space to promote cross-age interaction, says Patterson.

2Life Communities, formerly Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, also acted as a thought partner in the project, offering tips and advice to staff who were new to intergenerational programming. 2Life communities in the Boston area partner with academic institutions to convene a Russian Conversation Club that brings together students and residents to practice language skills, share meals, and attend cultural events.

HumanGood housing communities in the Bay Area of San Francisco have established a weekly technology course for residents that is taught by local high school students, and partnered with a youth community center on a monthly “adopt a senior building” program.

One housing community managed by Lutheran Senior Services (LSS) in Missouri convened an Intergenerational Committee comprised of residents and students, while another LSS community established an ongoing partnership with a local homeschoolers association.

National Church Residences community in Ohio has forged a partnership with the Ohio State University Extension Office that brings young people and housing residents together to participate in an intergenerational cooking program and to work on a shared community garden.

Volunteers of America (VOA) manages a HUD-funded multifamily community in Michigan where younger and older residents participate in monthly activities that they plan as a group. Another VOA community in Michigan is working with the local Chamber of Commerce to establish a relationship with local elementary schools.

This content was originally posted on the Blog of the LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass-Boston.