Intergenerational Programming Involving Adults with Dementia: An Observational Assessment of Social Behaviors and Affect


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Virginia Tech


The empirical knowledgebase of intergenerational programming (IGP) largely relies on anecdotal reports by staff and family members. The lack of concrete knowledge is particularly evident in the literature regarding IGP involving elders with dementia. In an effort to fill some of the voids in the current literature base, observations were conducted for seven weeks at a co-located child and adult day program to determine the effects of IGP on 10 older adult participants (M age =81 yrs., S.D. = 5.21). All participants (5 male and 5 female) were diagnosed with dementia by a physician and attended the adult day program regularly. Intergroup contact theory, which emphasizes interdependence between groups, informed the development and facilitation of the IGP activities. A structured scale was utilized to assess the elders' social behavior and affect during IGP. Control observations were conducted during adult-only activities representative of traditional dementia-care programming, and qualitative data were collected through participant interviews and facilitator journaling to corroborate the quantitative findings.

T-test analyses revealed that the older adults exhibited significantly greater levels of group social behavior and significantly fewer instances of unoccupied behavior during IGP as compared to traditional adult-only activities. The adults also expressed significantly more positive affect during IGP than in the control activities. Findings from the qualitative inquiries supported the quantitative results by emphasizing the meaning and purpose of IGP for the elders. Results indicated that effectively planned and facilitated IGP is an appropriate and interesting activity for elders with dementia.



intergroup contact theory, dementia, intergenerational programming