Kendal News and Blog

4 Benefits to Intergenerational LIving

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Older adults and younger generations can all prosper from sharing experiences together. Intergenerational living has become a growing trend across the United States – even in the White House. There are so many good things that may come of intergenerational relationships.

Their retirement living field may market intergenerational living as an innovative new concept, but in reality, it’s not. In fact, it reflects a more natural way to live. Our culture is only now re-discovering the benefits that were once a seamless part of life. Generations have lived in harmony benefitting mutually for all of recorded history.

Variety in age is just one element of the diversity Kendal strives to create. We are fortunate to have multiple avenues by which we are able to enrich the lives of our community members with intergenerational friendships. Through programs like the Kendal Early Learning Center and our effort to employ high school and college students, children and young adults are always engaging with residents resulting in positive benefits to both.

4 Can’t Miss Advantages of Intergenerational Community

Uplifting Spirits

Young children provide a spark of enthusiasm to older adults. Kids have a certain optimism they carry about that rubs off on everyone around them. These relationships are a great way to add joy to your day. A child’s laughter is contagious!

Genuine Friendships

Children are blind to differences in age. A friendship with a child can be truly special. A child will look at a bond with a mature adult the same way he or she does with a peer at grammar school. Regardless of age, one can never have too many great friends!


It’s true that these relationships have been proven to be beneficial for both children and retirement community residents, but it is also clear that the staff gets a boost as well. Think about your time at work. What would witnessing such a warm interaction have done for a dreaded case of “the Mondays”? The benefits become exponential when shared! And many communities with child care and education programs offer priority enrollment to staff.

Providing Some Guidance

Do you ever think of what you could have done with your current pool of knowledge in your teens or 20s? As young adults we can be a bit hesitant to listen to our parents, but a friendship like this may be just what we need to see the light. And it always feels good to give back. Real wisdom and life knowledge cannot be drawn from anywhere else.

Hundreds of these programs have been popping up across the nation for these very good reasons. This natural, comfortable living is positive for everyone involved. Gaining new perspectives and more complete outlooks is a blessing that will last a lifetime.

Intergenerational Programs Benefit Young and Old

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, November 10, 2015
To some in western society, the concept of intergenerational living may seem like a new idea. In truth, though, it’s a timeless idea that is still practiced in many other countries and one that offers many benefits to all parties involved.

Historically, older people have played active roles in the care and teaching of the young. They were the storytellers and teachers in their villages, tribes, and communities. They had lived long lives and had stories to tell that not only delighted young children, but also taught them important lessons about history, survival, courage, and life.

Benefits to Young Children

The times haven’t changed so much that children have nothing to learn from the elders in their communities. In fact, children today stand to gain as much from this contact now as ever before – perhaps even more in a world that’s increasingly connected to the internet and disconnected from the people they spend time with every day.

Children today need to hear stories about the past in order to connect to the world outside of mobile phone, tablet, and portable game screens. Children learn about real life experiences and improve social skills by interacting with older generations.

Benefits to Older Adults

Older adults aren’t only giving in intergenerational environments. They also enjoy quite a few benefits of their own. While it is certainly exciting being part of a vibrant social community in retirement, being around young children also sparks the imagination and energizes the community in a unique way. Their playful approach to friendship makes the people around them feel more youthful and energetic.

Young children are inherently accepting. They are willing to forge friendships with new acquaintances regardless of age and other factors – even excited to do so. And don’t overlook the physical aspects of intergenerational programs; older adults who work with younger children may also enjoy the physical activity that is required. Working with children gives older adults an opportunity to enjoy the time spent together.

Benefit to the Community

From intergenerational programs like Generations United to informal opportunities to explore intergenerational activities (like the programs offered at Kendal at Oberlin) there are many possible benefits for the community as a whole.

There’s a wealth of shared knowledge and engagement among younger children, teens, college students, and older adults. Some of the benefits that result from these experiences are more respectful interactions between the generations and more empathetic people in all age groups who are able to see the world differently.

Diversity is an element that’s instrumental when it comes to keeping life interesting and inviting new opportunities to learn from others. Part of the appeal of intergenerational communities is the fact that there is diversity in age, background, education, and so much more. This provides opportunities for the excitement of the young to bring out the vitality and exuberance of the older ones, while the wisdom of the older adults brings out the thirst for knowledge and the natural curiosity of the young.

Intergenerational Friendships Benefit Everyone

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Written by: Molly Kavanaugh

Two Minnesota residents, 30-plus years apart in age, found common ground on a frozen lake. They have been skating together ever since.

“The benefit of older friends is that they have perspective and knowledge,” says 54-year-old Erik Wardenaar about his skating partner, Penny Jacobs, 88.

Penny adds that, by sharing of herself, “I am giving Erik the benefit of my experiences.”

Ask older adults involved in an intergenerational relationship and they are likely to tell you that it enriches their life, bringing a vibrancy and freshness that is different from friendships with people their own age.  

Three Positive Benefits

1.  The opportunity for a mutual knowledge exchange. You’ve had experiences the younger generation has only read about in their history books. Something as simple as having to use a payphone to call home is a completely foreign concept to today’s children and teenagers. Sharing your firsthand knowledge is a great way to leave a legacy and impart some wisdom. Don’t think your young friends don’t have knowledge of their own to impart! Ask them for help to learn more about social media or see if they know any tricks to get the most from your newest tech device.

2.  The chance to grow your support system. We may experience the loss of family and friends as we get older. Building relationships with younger generations is one of the best ways to combat the feelings of isolation and loneliness that can lead to depression in older adults who have lost people that were close to them.

3.  The ability to improve your overall health. Spending time with children can cause older adults to burn 20 percent more calories per week. Older adults who make the most of intergenerational socializing opportunities are also less likely to experience a fall and tend to perform better on memory tests.

Leaving a Legacy

“Older adults have an opportunity to leave a powerful legacy, to make a difference,” writes Susan V. Bosak, chair of the Legacy Project. “They can send a message into the future through a grandchild or young friend. Relationships across generations can fulfill our desire for immortality.”

These lasting contributions can involve: teaching a skill, such as quilting or wood carving; imparting knowledge, such as a deeper understanding of poetry or music; or sharing wisdom gleaned from experiences of love and failure.

Or the legacy can live on in a community rather than a person. “If we can improve the standing of older adults in society, and nurture what they can bring through intergenerational connections, then we can achieve a better community with a better quality of life for all ages,” Susan writes.

Keep in mind Margaret Mead’s quote:  “Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of the nation.”
How to Make Intergenerational Relationships Happen

Volunteering at a school, library or with a youth group is a wonderful way to spend time with the younger generation.  Just contact the organization or your local United Way for more information about volunteer opportunities.

Join a club or activity or sign up for a class. You might choose something you enjoy doing, like playing chess or sailing, or a skill you want to learn, such as a speaking a foreign language or making jewelry.  Whatever it is, you are likely to be able to interact with people of all ages.

Consider moving to an intergenerational retirement community such as Kendal at Oberlin. Residents have many opportunities to form intergenerational relationships with students of all ages, including children who attend the Early Learning Center, located on the Kendal campus, and students from Oberlin College.

And finally, be bold. Skater Penny Jacobs approached Erik with the idea of skating together. Not only did the two find a beloved activity to share, but have become friends off the ice too. If you’d like to get to know someone, ask them if they’d be interested in meeting for coffee and conversation. You might be pleasantly surprised at their response.

"I Don't Want to Live With Old People"

Kendal at Oberlin - Monday, January 23, 2012

Myth Dispelled – “I Don’t Want to Live With Old People…”

“I don’t want to live with a lot of old people.” We residents of Kendal at Oberlin hear comments like this from some of our friends when we encourage them to consider moving into our community. To tell the truth, some of us may have spoken those exact words – until we actually saw how intergenerational life is here at Kendal. We have an Early Childhood Center under our own roof, so even those of us who don’t volunteer in the Center are cheered by seeing youngsters as they take excursions along our corridors and walkways or play next to our cafeteria. The high school students who are our dining room servers provide another level of interaction, highlighted every spring when they bring their prom dates to show off their “dress-up” attire. And our other staff – housekeeping, facilities, wellness, nursing, etc. – in the process of performing their tasks help us feel we belong to a multi-age community. And when storms close the public schools, our KORA “Snow Day Teachers” provide activities for the children of these staff members.

Kendal is not a “gated” community in any sense. Non-residents, including members of Kendal –at-Home, are attracted to many of the programs presented by KORA committees. Increasingly, community organizations, most notably the Oberlin Heritage Center, make use of our facilities for public programs that bring overflow crowds to our auditorium. Because Kendal residents are so active in community and church groups, many meetings of these groups take place here – as becomes apparent when trying to schedule the Crossroads or Green Room. And our mile-long circular Kendal Drive attracts college students and others for jogging or just a leisurely walk to watch the birds and other wild life in our ponds, woods and natural meadow areas.

Oberlin College and Conservatory students volunteer to assist in the Stephens Care Center, present recitals in our auditorium, and provide programs for our committees. Many Lorain Community College and Joint Vocational School students receive part of their training here. Students in the Oberlin Public Schools, including the Model U.N. participants, Ninde Scholars and International Baccalaureate candidates, give talks about their studies and display their projects. In return, Kendal residents write “publicity plugs,” provide “grandparent” readers for kindergarten students, staff the “listening post” for middle school students, tutor and occasionally teach courses in the high school.

Among the small town advantages of Oberlin is that within easy walking and biking distance are a magnificent art museum, a world-class Conservatory of Music, and the full range of Oberlin College academic, athletics, drama and other facilities – all of them open to Kendal residents. Many of us audit classes and/or participate in winter term and Exco courses – free of charge. With the College’s 1200 events a year, including concerts, operas, plays, dance performances and lectures, at little or no ticket price, we Kendal-ites have far more opportunities to mingle with audiences of all ages than time and energy permit. We offer our own talents to the community by participating in the Musical Union and church choirs, and by showing off our Lawn Chair Precision Drill Team in such events as the annual city-wide Big Parade. Some of us also serve on City commissions and many of us on church and community boards and committees.

So, it’s true, we Kendal residents live with a lot of old people – very fascinatingly talented, experienced and wise old people – but we keep our curiosity, creativity and intellectual capacity alive thanks to the extraordinary intergenerational opportunities that Oberlin provides.

John Elder, KORA President

KORA is the Kendal at Oberlin Resident Association. Visit their web site at

The Value of Our Intergenerational Environment

Kendal at Oberlin - Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Value of our Intergenerational Environment

      Whenever I pass down the hall at Kendal I'm forced to stop and check out the displays by the Day Care Center. Such great photos and pictures of small children having fun with some of our oldest residents here at Kendal at Oberlin. Actually, the photos of these young, cheerful, friendly faces show how these children bring recognition and smiles to folks who often don't have much to smile about. One photo is of a lovely, brilliant woman whose Alzheimer's disease has taken away not only her memory, but also the cheerful friendliness she once had. And in the photo she is reaching out, smiling and being touched by a sweet child who doesn't know her new friend has any limitations. Priceless.
      We Kendal residents are touched in many ways by these lively young ones - when they ride by in their Big Red Stroller and smile and wave, when they join us in the pool for a swim, when they climb on a lap for a story. Many a lonely person gets pulled out of their sadness when the giggles and hollers and chatter of the children fills their attention and replaces their self absorption.
      Kendal's intergenerational environment helps ensure Kendal is a Special Place for us all.

Anne Elder
Chairman of Program Committee