A space for intergenerationa encounters between young people and the elderly

“May the young people make the elderly dream and in turn may the elderly be reminded of their roots, not to close themselves off but, to give their best and thrive”

Pope Francis

The Intergenerational Encounter brings together young people and the elderly. These intergenerational encounters are concrete instances where a Culture of Encounter is created, developed, and put into practice and therefore is a response to the current “throw-away” culture that excludes the elderly from communities. Furthermore, these Intergenerational Encounters are an effective way to combat isolation, and loneliness among young and old.

This Intergenerational Encounter is a program that not only creates solidarity between young people and the elderly but equally important, is a concrete response to the mental health issues triggered by isolation and loneliness.

Sitting down and listening to the “other” is but one characteristic that constitutes a human encounter – a receptive attitude, free of narcissism, freely accepts and receives, deeply listens, and embraces the “other” and takes the encounter down a path of fraternity.

Program Origins

The Intergenerational Encounter program was born from an initiative of young Scholas volunteers from different parts of the world. It sought to alleviate the negative emotional and cognitive effects of isolation, especially in the population most vulnerable to Covid-19: the elderly. Their efforts resulted in collecting donated tablets and electronic devices for distribution in retirement homes and adult day care centers to enable video calls to be made between young people and the elderly.

As a response to the isolation and loneliness epidemic affecting the elderly and young people and which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 lock downs, Scholas began to utilize its networks of colleges and universities through its Scholas Chairs Educational Conferences in collaboration with a network of psychologists and doctors to train Scholas volunteers in connecting the elderly with young people virtually and in-person.

Problem Statement

Isolation and loneliness are a silent epidemic that deteriorates mental health and well-being, particularly among young people and the elderly.

According to the International Centre on Aging, loneliness is a medical risk factor that has implications for personal, economic, and social well-being. Studies have linked loneliness to many serious health problems, including dementia, heart disease, depression, and stroke.

Other research reports conclude that chronic loneliness can be as or more life-threatening than obesity and smoking.

One study even suggests that loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 30 percent.

Throwaway Culture

The current Throwaway Culture presumes that young people cannot be useful in building the present and the “utility” or “usefulness” of our elderly are remnants of the past.

Under this Throwaway Culture society casts aside both young people and elderly people thereby impeding their longing to be part the present.

«We do not realize that isolating the elderly and leaving them in the care of others without adequate and close family mutilates and impoverishes the family and society itself. Moreover, it ends up depriving young people of that necessary contact with their roots and with a wisdom that youth alone cannot attain».