Through relationships, community events, and various activities such as storytelling, valuable knowledge regarding the history, culture, and customs are transferred between younger generations and the older generations. Further, they facilitate the transfer of life skills such as: empathy, patience, resilience, compassion, confidence, self-control, etiquette, behaviour, and manners. They also learn skills such as communication and how they can give back to their communities as well as gain meaningful relationships.
This expertise is often not taught as a part of a formal curriculum but can be taught through more interactions between younger and older generations. It is not just the younger generation learning from the older generation, but the older generation learning patience, technology, resilience, etc. from the youngsters. Older generations today are more educated than previous older generations, yet often tend to lack companionship and family bonding. Older generations can become role models for the young and pass on traditions and legacies to them. Intergenerational learning is offered in a wide range of contexts such as preschools, after-school services, day centres for the elderly, elderly homes, and community centres.
It is often argued that changes such as demographic transitions, economic restructuring, shifting social norms, and improved technological innovation have led to segregation between generations. So, the interaction between generations is not the same as it used to be. Therefore, European policymakers are increasingly looking to intergenerational programming as a way of bridging the generational divide and building more cohesive communities. In this context, more attention is paid to intergenerational practice (IP) as a mechanism for strengthening generational proximity, improving understanding and communication, and fostering a commitment to reciprocity and solidarity (Buffel et al., 2014).
For successful intergenerational programmes that contribute to community development and cohesive societies, intergenerational relationships should be broadly recognised in both formal and informal systems. This would enable generations to engage in a collaborative fashion to provide mutual benefits. In this sense, Intergenerational relationships can be identified as one of the networks that can tie communities together.
Utilising IP in social policies, needs us to clearly define what IP is. There may be various ways it can be defined, yet researchers have highlighted three common features in IP: i) participation of people from different generations, ii) activities that bring mutual benefits for all groups, and iii) participants maintaining relations based on sharing. Considering these features, IPs can even be planned in such a way as to address specific social issues. For example, intergenerational learning practices can be used to improve educational outcomes in young people; care and support initiatives can be designed to support older people with specific physical or mental health needs; and community-based programmes can address issues such as neighborhood regeneration or social exclusion.