Friday, April 7, 2017

One idea can enrich the world

One idea can enrich the world if it is acted on. Back in 1973, Volunteer Grandparents Society was founded by Marjorie Anderson, who was a working as a social worker in Vancouver. While manning the phone lines in the Crisis Centre, she received calls from numbers of families and elderly people who were without the benefits of extended family. With this in mind, she set out to establish a voluntary grandparenting program. Today that organisation connects older people with younger people to enrich both generations. They have an extensive program and our well established in BC, and they are providing a model of how to connect generations in other jurisdictions.

The Volunteer Grandparents Program, at Family Service Association, works to facilitate the creation and growth of extended families of choice throughout Metropolitan Toronto.
Started in 1991, the Volunteer Grandparents Program is an intergenerational matching program that is preventive in nature. Through the exchange of cultures, friendship and learning, the program promotes well-being, positive experiences and social supports between families with young children and older adults. The program welcomes and encourages the participation of families from all of Toronto's multicultural communities.
Modelled after the Volunteer Grandparents Society of British Columbia, the Volunteer Grandparents Program is the only program of its kind in Ontario. 

The program does not have one central location. Instead, its activities take place in the homes of the parents, the homes of the volunteer grandparents, or through community outings to the park, playground, zoo or library. Through a scrupulous screening process, healthy active adults (50+) are carefully matched with families that have at least one child who is between the ages of two and eight. Matches are monitored through regular, supportive contact with the Program Coordinator. Program members attend orientation and training sessions and participate in the program's development and operation as members of the Advisory Council and/or its working committees. There are large social events held throughout the year so that parents, children and volunteer grandparents can meet each other and share their knowledge and experience.

There are also many other moves to connect the generations, and the focus of each is different. In the US there is Foster Grandparents and this organisation provides Grandparents who are role models, mentors, and friends to children with exceptional needs. The program provides a way for volunteers age 55 and over to stay active by serving children and youth in their communities.

In 2010 the NorthWest Territories Senior Society launched an intergenerational program with the aims to bring people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial activities which promote greater understanding and respect between generations and contributes to building more cohesive communities. Intergenerational practice is inclusive, building on the positive resources that the young and old have to offer each other and those around them.

In Toronto there is the Intergenerational Partnerships (TIGP), which first came into existence in 1981 as a working group in Toronto’s Riverdale community, responding to the needs of two distinct groups – children and youth, and seniors.

Founded in 1986, TIGP has been the only non-profit charity mandated and funded to bringing generations and communities together through intergenerational programming across the GTA.
Why should we try to connect to the younger generation, because there are benefits to us? Benefits such as:
·       Improved life satisfaction
·       Enhanced self-esteem
·       Ongoing skills development
·       Feelings of continued usefulness and connectedness in the community
·       An opportunity to meet other caring and talented seniors
·       An opportunity to develop meaningful connections with children and youth that extend beyond family and acquaintances
There are also some benefits to the younger generation. Such as:
·       The development of healthy attitudes towards aging
·       Educational enrichment
·       Improved self-esteem and opportunity for leadership skill development
·       A strengthened sense of community and social responsibility
·       The promotion of culture, heritage and history
·       Intergenerational Programs Serve to Build Stronger Communities:

Needs and demographics of the senior population are changing and evolving. Seniors living in poverty, low and diverse literacy levels, isolation, health and social needs and abuse within an ageing and increasingly multi-cultural population are some of the main issues cited in current Statistics Canada information. It is shown that intergenerational contact contributes to:
·       Both the individual and the community’s health and well-being. Increases the mutual understanding, acceptance and support for each generation.
·       Improve the safety and security of neighbourhoods.
·       Statistics Canada’s socio-economic analysis of Health and Literacy Among Children Report demonstrates that the socio-economic environment remains an important determinant of health and that variables such as income and literacy continue to have a direct and indirect effect on people’s health status.
·       There is a relationship linking literacy and populations with high risk among senior citizens. This relationship tends to occur for all ages and both sexes.

·       The National Council on Aging in its "Seniors Independence: Whose Responsible", believes that government, individual families and groups in the community can collaborate to maintain seniors’ independence and autonomy and that within a supportive and complementary partnership, each can play a significant role.

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