Sarah Webster began her career in long-term care and later transitioned into the field of knowledge translation and exchange. Through her current role as Manager of the Centre for Studies in Aging and Health at Providence Care, as well as her extensive work with the Ontario Age-Friendly Communities Outreach Program, Niagara Connects, Behavioural Supports Ontario and Gestalt Collective, Sarah has a long history of helping people access information, connect to each other and strengthen their work. Sarah has a primary interest in aging, age-friendly communities, knowledge translation and exchange. She is passionate about building relationships, seeing the big picture and helping people connect to and understand the information that matters to them.
GrandPals Intergenerational Program: Reducing Ageism Through Building Intergenerational Relationships
Sarah Webster, Centre for Studies in Aging and Health at Providence Care, Canada
By 2030, older Canadians will account for 23 percent of the Canada’s total population. Ageism, including age discrimination, negative age stereotypes, age segregation and negative perceptions of aging, adversely impacts older adults at individual (e.g. mental illness, physical illness, poor quality of life and wellbeing, reduced longevity, risky health behaviors, cognitive impairment) and structural levels (e.g. denied access to health services and treatments, lack of work opportunities). Negative societal views on aging and health also impact younger generations who may accept public perceptions of aging as inevitable and experience poor physical and mental health outcomes as they age.
This presentation will describe GrandPals, an established intergenerational program that fosters learning, storytelling and friendship between students and older adults as a way to reduce ageism and create more connected communities. Through guided interviews over several months, students draft, revise and refine an Extraordinary Story from their GrandPal’s life, captured through written work and visual arts, and gifted to their GrandPal at the end of the year.
Since 2010, GrandPals has been uniquely integrated with various aspects of school curriculum including language and visual arts, mathematics and technology. Teachers interested in project-based, service learning can deliver a program rich in curriculum connections. This forms the spine of GrandPals; however there are many opportunities for teachers to tailor the program to the needs of the participating students and older adults.
Because GrandPals spans an academic year, participants are able to build meaningful relationships with each other. These have been shown to lessen misconceptions about aging and promote greater understanding and respect between generations. This helps create communities that are more inclusive, accessible and age-friendly.
This presentation will describe GrandPals, its replications and impact to date, as well as discuss current work to develop the metrics, interventions and mechanisms required to scale-up and sustain the Program across Canada.