Kavod Senior Life, housing and service provider for older adults, and the University of Denver School of Art & Art History-Photography created a powerful connection opportunity between 18 pairs of college freshmen and Kavod residents. The question “what one photograph would you take with you if your home caught fire?” provided a catalyst for storytelling and sharing memories between the photographers and the subjects, who held their cherished photos while being photographed. Pairs collaborated over the course of two sessions to share memories and take formal portraits. All participants celebrated each other and the final products – a “magazine” of all the photographs and a local gallery display – during a gallery walk and reception.
The evaluation showed overwhelmingly positive feedback from both older adults and students. Both groups felt more connected to each other through this program. Ageism towards older adults and younger generations decreased over time. Students specifically noted they felt more comfortable with older adults. This program provided the opportunity for everyone to share deeply with each other and have genuine, impactful connections.
The Photography and Memory program is offered every year by University of Denver with varying partners, typically in person. The following video tells the story of how this program shifted online during the COVID-19 pandemic in Spring 2020.
“I enjoyed this activity a lot. It allowed me to meet new people and learn about myself and the person I was paired with.” – Student
“Allowing us to come together and share freely is enriching.” – Older Adult
Shalom Park residents, young children (ages 0-5) and their caregivers engaged in a weekly intergenerational music program. Centering music as a means of expression and connection, the program offered instrument playing and drumming, moving and singing, and musical partnering activities. Through these activities, all participants – regardless of age – found meaningful ways to interact. Older adults shared their insights about parenting with mothers and child caregivers, children and older adults played together, and mothers and child caregivers experienced quality time.
Music therapy on its own promotes well-being, and when combined with intergenerational interactions, the positive effect of feeling connected is amplified. Older adults, mothers and child caregivers, and children reported feeling like they engaged in meaningful and sustainable relationships. Throughout the span of the program, interactions increased and connections deepened.
“Wish I could get up and dance with them. Love singing with them. I’d like to read them stories that they can understand. Like to be around the little ones. I really enjoyed it. I almost didn’t get out of bed today but I’m so glad I did.” – Older Adult Resident
“This class/program is enriching and humbling. We enjoy spending time with our grandfriends and learning about music, instruments, and about empathy and kindness. This class is a treasure and means a lot to us. We hope it will continue for many years so we can keep sharing our friendship and learning from others. Thank you to the talented, sweet, and patient instructors!” – Mother/child caregiver
Wish of a Lifetime partnered with Golden High School to bring together Veterans and high school seniors to engage in a semester-long program where participants shared their experiences and stories with each other through various activities including a visit to Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum to learn more about American history.. The program originally culminated in a trip to Washington D.C. so that veterans and students could explore the city, memorials, and museums together, but because of COVID-19, the trip was cancelled and programming shifted to a remote format.
Both Veterans and students reported overall enjoyment of the program and noted how valuable it was to connect with people from different generations and learn about one another. Both groups experienced more positive attitudes about the other group. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when connection became more difficult, Veterans and students especially valued interactions between older and younger generations.
“(Veteran’s name) and I have been regularly communicating and it has been great. We email, text, and even send each other letters. I sent him a mask my mom and I made in the mail and he sent me his book. I do hope I can see him again because we have built a really great connection.” – Student
“Until I met my two students I didn’t have a good view on the younger generations. I have a lot more faith in the future after getting to know these two.” – Older Adult