Sky Bergman

Why focus on connecting the generations? Building intergenerational connections in nursing homes and senior living communities is one way that our industry can help rebuild occupancy and social engagement. Fostering relationships between staff members, volunteers, families and residents that include all different age groups can help build trust, promote meaningful engagement, and combat loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. 

This can be done by offering intergenerational programming and creating “shared spaces” for all ages which will help older and younger people gain a deeper understanding of one another so they can share their knowledge and wisdom with one another.

It is inspiring to see that there are already so many organizations doing this important work and the resources they provide can be invaluable when creating your own intergenerational strategy. These organizations include: 

  • Ebenezer is the largest senior living operator in Minnesota with 100 years of experience serving older adults. They have an Intergenerational Day Program that facilitates exchanges between children and residents of their senior living communities — referred to as “Grandfriends.”
  • is working to change culture by elevating new ideas and diverse voices on the power of connection and collaboration across generational divides. They bring generations together to solve society’s greatest problems.
  • Generations United is working to improve the lives of children, youth and older people through intergenerational collaboration, public policies and programs for the enduring benefit of all.
  • Senior Planet provides courses and events that enable older adults and people of all ages to come together and find ways to learn, work, create, exercise and thrive in today’s digital age.
Charles de Vilmorin

Another important example is the intergenerational work being done by filmmaker Sky Bergman. Her documentary film Lives Well Lived celebrates the incredible wit and wisdom of adults aged 75 to 100. Encompassing over 3,000 years of experience, forty people reveal their secrets and insights to living a meaningful life. These men and women share their journey into old age through family histories, personal triumphs, tragedies, loves and losses — seeing the best and worst of humanity along the way. 

For the past four years, Sky has been working with high schools, universities, senior living communities and Senior Planet members (part of AARP) across the country using the Lives Well Lived film as a catalyst to connect generations. After viewing the film, students and older adults are paired up and given the questions used in the Lives Well Lived film as a starting point for a conversation, creating a bridge between students and older adults as they take turns interviewing each other to gain a deeper understanding and to share their knowledge and wisdom about life. This understanding and common ground have created lasting, authentic intergenerational relationships. 

To date, these intergenerational projects have involved over 500 students and older adults: combating the stereotypes of ageism one story and one connection at a time. To learn more and bring the Lives Well Lived film and project to your community, you can visit the Lives Well Lived website here

Leaders will be able to learn the power of intergenerational connections. In our society, older adults are often overlooked, and the organizations listed above are working every day to combat that by embracing the power and purpose of intergenerational connections. 

Earn Free CEUs by attending Linked Senior’s upcoming #ActivitiesStrong webina. Sky will be the featured speaker on Tuesday, May 24th from 1-2 pm EST. Registration for the free live event is here. Webinar attendees will be given exclusive access to watch the Lives Well Lived film. 

Sky Bergman is an accomplished, award-winning photographer and filmmaker. A Professor Emeritus of Photography and Video at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, CA, Sky currently has two short films about intergenerational connections currently on the film festival circuit and is working on a feature-length film that is a celebration of love. Her fine artwork is included in permanent collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. 

Charles de Vilmorin is the CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.