Topic 1 What is Intergenerational Learning

Intergenerational Learning allows for learning to take place when persons from different age groups come together. When older and younger generations are present together, they gain skills, values, knowledge, and most importantly experience. This learning mostly occurs unconsciously through observation, communication, and through interaction. It takes place through interaction between two or more generations.

Greater mobility (The more distance that is between the different generations) within families leads to more isolation between younger and older family members. Younger adults lack the much needed support from older family members in decision making, while the older members lack the support needed with the ageing process. Furthermore, intergenerational learning becomes more important for the older generations due to increased use of modern technology in today’s world, and the prolonged lifespan of humans.


How intergenerational learning occurs

There are two ways IGL can occur: i) either two or more generations learning from each other, or ii) both generations learning together from a tutor or facilitator. Learning from each other is often more challenging, because both parties have to overcome stereotypes associated with age and preconceived assumptions about each other’s level of knowledge or cognitive abilities. When it comes to learning together from a tutor, the tutor faces the challenge of having more than one approach, as the senior generation may be more passive learners, while the younger generation tend to be more independent and be more active learners. In this context, it is important for the tutor or the facilitator to find the right balance between approaches adopted in facilitating intergenerational learning.


Intergenerational learning promotes social skills

Intergenerational learning helps develop better understanding between generations and appreciate each other’s strengths as well as acknowledge the weaknesses. Yet, at the same time both generations have resources that are valuable to each other, that can contribute to empowerment of each generation. IGL is a lifelong learning process. This learning aims to bring different generations together with activities that are mutually beneficial in order to promote respect, deeper understanding and to share experiences between the generations. Intergenerational learning helps to build a more cohesive, inclusive and positive community and relationship between the younger and older generation as well as those around them.  Intergenerational learning is also the best way to continue and preserve culture, traditions, history and skills. This learning also helps to reduce prejudices such as ageism and social exclusion. Therefore, intergenerational learning promotes social skills of both generations.


Theories related to IGL

Theories related to IGL seem to be lacking in literature. However, debates IGL are often based on two theoretical perspectives: i) Theory of realistic conflicts, and ii) Theory of social identity. The Theory of realistic conflicts indicates that conflicts between groups arise due to competition between groups. The Theory of social identity assumes that people categorise others into groups in order to simplify the complex information and social environment that surrounds them (Kump and krašovec, 2014).

In this context, researchers have emphasised that, an intergenerational theory should pay equal attention to the potential development of both members in the intergenerational dyad to learn as a function of social interaction (Vanderven, 2008).

Video: TEDx Amsterdam - Intergenerational learning 'exchanges between young and old' - Jurriën Mentink