Can the Wisdom of Aging be Activated and Make a Difference Societally? (Parisi et al., 2011)

This paper discusses the benefits of an intergenerational program called The Experience Corps. In particular, it looks at its potential to simultaneously meet the needs of older adults and school children.

Experience Corps was set up to draw on and activate the wisdom of older adults, whilst also support the development of children underserved by the schooling system. The paper suggests that the programme provides a number of benefits:

(1) delivers physical and mental benefits for the older participants

(2) delivers social and academic benefits for the younger participants

(3) nurtures the development of wisdom in the old and transfers this wisdom to the young

(4) new experiences: both old and young gain new experiences. The old can update their ‘life knowledge’ and the young can learn social skills, conflict resolution etc.

(5) social interactions: old connect actively with the community and feel useful. The young are supported in gaining an understanding of changes across the lifespan. They also gain a positive view of human development through interacting with productive elders.

(6) meeting of mutual developmental needs: older adults remove focus from themselves and their need to nurture is met. The young people have their need to be nurtured met.

(7) Intergenerational activity leads to the perspective of ‘generativity’ – working to make a better situation for future generations. Generative thinking leads to growth in perspectives associated with wisdom (longterm thinking, pro-social thinking etc.)

Overall, the paper suggests the programme shows great potential as a model for activating wisdom amongst older adults and sowing the seeds for the growth of wisdom in younger generations and considers how these mechanisms might be distilled and transferred into other contexts.


Abstract

The Experience Corps®, a community-based intergenerational program, was developed to promote the health of older adults, while simultaneously addressing unmet social and academic needs in public elementary schools. The model was designed to draw on, and potentially activate, the wisdom of older adults. This paper explores the nature of wisdom-related knowledge and how older adults may apply such knowledge when tutoring and mentoring young children, as well as the potential for the intergenerational transmission of wisdom from the older adult volunteers to the school children being mentored by them. Developing an understanding of these issues may provide a basis for the creation of more extensive wisdom-generating opportunities for both older and younger generations.

Click here to read the original paper


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