Seniors and toddlers enjoy a day at the garden together

NEWS // May 25, 2016

Three Intergenerational Programs Give Older Adults a Chance to Share, Serve and Connect

Do you or someone you know have talents to share and love to give to a younger or older person and want to have a wonderful time in the process?   Do you work for an organization that wants to infuse your programs and activities with greater vitality, collaboration and diversity? 

Intergenerational initiatives across the county offer people of different ages the opportunity to come together and share their experiences, knowledge and skills in a fun and collaborative way.  Such programs can provide benefits to all involved and foster life-enhancing growth, understanding, and friendship.  They also address critical community challenges.

With a belief in the overall value of intergenerational efforts and a particular conviction that older adults are one of our most valuable resources, the County of San Diego’s Aging & Independence Services (AIS) embraced county-wide development of intergenerational programming in 2002.    Since that time, AIS has partnered with multiple community-based organizations to create groundbreaking intergenerational projects that have served thousands of youth and older adults.   Today, five Intergenerational Coordinators now work together as a team within the county’s Health & Human Services Agency, representing all regions of the county, AIS, and Child Welfare Services. 


Here are just three of the many intergenerational efforts happening around the county:


South Bay Intergenerational Games

For fourteen years, the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista has been welcoming youth from Chula Vista along with older adults in the community to experience the fun of the South Bay Intergenerational Games. This half-day event, co-created by AIS and the Chula Vista Elementary School District, pairs older adults with 3rd grade students for an unforgettable experience of fun, fitness, and intergenerational connection.

This past April, approximately 100 older adults joined 115 third-graders from Eastlake and Los Altos elementary schools for physical challenges such as field hockey, Frisbee and Zumba, as well as nutrition games and activities to learn more about one another.

It is no secret that youth and older adults, as with most Americans, are not getting as much exercise as is recommended or eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. This event serves as a reminder to those of all ages that fitness can be a lot of fun and healthy eating can be a delicious experience.   

Intergenerational Games occur several times a year around the county.   Ken, a “senior athlete” who has participated numerous times, says these events help “both seniors and young children appreciate each other and provide both parties with an experience they will remember fondly forever.”


Five & Fit

Another intergenerational effort---Five & Fit---targets even younger childrenThis model program focuses on the prevention of childhood obesity and the promotion of active, life-long behaviors.  Older adults assist in guiding young preschoolers (age 2 to 5) and their families toward improved nutrition and enhanced physical activity.  Activities include gardening, tasting fruits and vegetables and fun nutritional education. 

This program is currently being offered at two sites in the county:  the Cuyamaca College Child Development Center in El Cajon and Vista Square Elementary School in Chula Vista.  Funding support is provided by AIS and First Five San Diego. 

The benefits of Five & Fit extend far beyond the children and their families.   A number of the older adult volunteers report engaging in healthier habits themselves since participating in the program.  Pat, a long-time “Garden Grannie” at the Cuyamaca College site, is certainly a believer: “That little hour you get with those little faces and you see the light bulb go on---it is just amazing.”


AARP Experience Corps

A brand new intergenerational effort is also getting started in the county.   AARP Experience Corps engages volunteers age 50 plus to participate in a tutoring program proven to help struggling readers reach grade level reading proficiency by the end of third grade.  The Children’s Initiative, a local non-profit agency, is spearheading the launch of Experience Corps in the 2016-2017 school year in the Lemon Grove and San Diego Unified School Districts during the extended day programs.  This program offers older adults who love to read the opportunity to share that love with a younger generation and help students do better in school.

If you are interested in these or any other intergenerational efforts happening in your community, please contact Pam Plimpton, Intergenerational Coordinator with AIS, at (858) 495-5769 or

A directory of intergenerational programs in San Diego County can be found online.