It’s exciting to read about recent research, which supports the Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Model (TIIN) we are developing. Aside from intuitively making sense, research tells us that the TIIN model will have a positive impact both for seniors and for young families with children who are seeking support.
Aeron Adams, DNP, RN, PMHNP
This past year, Aeron Adams, a Registered Nurse and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, completed her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For her final project as a doctoral candidate, Aeron created a comprehensive evaluation plan to assess outcomes of Hope & A Future’s proposed TIIN. This plan will help gauge the efficacy of the TIIN as a therapeutic environment for both seniors and at-risk families, allowing Hope & A Future to become the first intergenerational neighborhood in the United States that will have a tailored evaluation plan in place from its inception. Aeron also provided us with a literature review, and we look forward to sharing with you what we learned from her over the year.
In addition to Aeron’s work, we have conducted interviews with residents, their families and caregivers, and family members of former residents. These conversations have uncovered several common themes, confirming our perspective on what Hope & A Future is providing to its residents and community members. We had three insights from these interviews last year:
3. The Therapeutic, Interactive, Intergenerational,
Health Risks for Seniors that the TIIN Addresses
Seniors are at increased risk of loneliness and social isolation. Luo, Hawkley, Waite, and Cacioppo (2012) found that between 20 and 40% of older adults in Western countries feel lonely at any given time. Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are associated with depression, reduction in physical activity, impaired cognition, cardiovascular disease, and heightened inflammatory and metabolic responses to stress (Luo et al., 2012; Steptoe, Shankar, Demakakos, Wardle, 2013). Diminished mental and physical health occur with loneliness and social isolation, which can lead to increased morbidity and mortality (Steptoe et al., 2013). Seniors gain a sense of purpose through their contributions in the intergenerational community, leading to increased satisfaction and self-worth (Eheart et al., 2009; Hatton-Yeo, 2010). This also has implications for health, as seniors with positive beliefs about themselves and aging live an average of seven years longer compared to those with negative beliefs (Levy, Slade, & Kasl, 2002). Hope & A Future will reduce loneliness and social isolation.
One of the main purposes of an intentional, intergenerational neighborhood is to promote social relationships. This enhancement of social connection is vital to ameliorating the deleterious effects of loneliness in seniors who may have lost friends, spouses, and other relatives to death (Steptoe et al., 2013). Chan, Raman, Ma, and Malhotra (2015) found that seniors living with family who nevertheless perceived themselves to be lonely, were still at heightened risk for poor health outcomes.
Other Health Issues Addressed
The communal focus of intergenerational neighborhoods offers unique opportunities for the health promotion of residents. Physical inactivity is a national health problem experienced by all age groups. A meta-analysis by Young, Plotnikoff, Collins, Callister, and Morgan (2014) concluded that those with social support are much more likely to engage in and maintain higher levels of physical activity. An intergenerational neighborhood with a built-environment conducive to outdoor activities such as playgrounds, walking paths, and gardens can help foster physical activity in a safe and supportive setting. Possibilities for both indoor and outdoor community exercise opportunities include yoga, tai chi, and swimming (Kaplan et al., 2017). “Exergaming”, or the use of exercise combined with video games such as Wii and Kinect Sports is effectively utilized by the University of Iowa’s intergenerational fitness program (Sowle, Francis, Margrett, & Franke, 2016).
In conjunction with increasing physical activity, intergenerational neighborhoods can help promote healthy eating habits. Activities such as community gardening, preparing, and sharing meals together are ways to learn about healthy foods and sustainable food production (Walter, 2013). For example, the Intergenerational Landed Learning Project through the University of British Columbia partners school children and community seniors to grow, harvest, and prepare local foods together. The goals of the Landed Learning Project are to raise self-efficacy, environmental stewardship, and personal health within an intergenerational partnership (University of British Columbia, n.d.). Hope & A Future currently has large gardens in place and is looking to focus on community gardening once the TIIN is built.
Stories From Our Community:
We remember Margaret fondly for her personality and many contributions to this community, and especially for the powerful way her anecdotal experience told the story of the impact the TIIN has already had on many lives. Social connection and social purpose made all the difference in the last years of Margaret’s life both for her and for those around her.
We are so thankful for all who have contributed to this amazing story of building a dream into a reality. Learn more!
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Written by members of the Hope & a Future community including residents, volunteers, and staff.