For centuries, philosophers and poets have written about the wisdom that comes with age.
In recent years science suggests that intergenerational programs may not only deepen wisdom in older adults but serve as a conduit to help young people acquire it. A study — supported by the National Institute on Aging and published in Educational Gerontology in 2009 — on what is now the AARP Foundation Experience Corps program concluded:
Through the practice of mentorship, adults may formulate alternate solutions to children’s questions by drawing from and reflecting on prior knowledge and experience, thus allowing them to consider life’s complexities in deeper, more meaningful ways. For children, providing and modeling skills and reflective ways of thinking may increase the emergence of wisdom later in life. …If wisdom is developed over the life course, it is possible that these early life experiences would assist in developing the qualities of wisdom.
There are many ways that older people can provide critical support to young people and their families. Older adults can offer children and youth tutoring, mentoring, nurturing, or recreational activities. They can also just “be there” for children and youth when families are dealing with a crisis. Involving older adults with younger people can generate greater community support for school and youth programs.
Grantmakers can foster the involvement of older adults in helping young people by supporting programs like these: