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In recent decades we have seen a trend towards greater age segregation in society. Changes in society such as family functions being assumed by age-specific institutions, changing family structures, the emergence of the beanpole family, increased longevity, increased geographical mobility, migration patterns and a shift from an industrial to a knowledge society are associated with a degree of disconnection among the generations. There is some research evidence to suggest that intergenerational projects can help reconnect the generations allowing for the transfer of knowledge and life experience and creating a greater understanding and tolerance between the generations. Although, small-scale intergenerational projects have been set up in recent years in schools, youth centres, and care settings in Ireland, information on intergenerational practice is scarce. Projects are diverse and often once-off, involving different groups of participants in different types of settings and with a range of aims. While projects are generally believed to have positive benefits for all participants, there is a gap in our knowledge about what these projects actually achieve, the nature of collective learning that may occur, and their capacity to transfer wisdom from older people to younger people. The aim of this study is to address a deficit in our knowledge about the nature and benefits of intergenerational projects and to suggest how intergenerational learning can be further developed as a resource in Irish society. As this was an unchartered field of study, creativity in data collection was required and multiple methods of data collection were employed, best described as a bricolage. The study was conducted in five phases. The first phase consisted of background research on intergenerational practice. Phase two involved a survey to organisations in rural and urban settings to identify the range and type of intergenerational projects. Phases three to five involved a study of three selected sites, two educational sites and one community site: DIT’s Intergenerational Nutrition Project, ‘Log on, Learn’ and the community of Rathville in Dublin’s north inner city. Evidence from this study suggests that a number of key elements pertaining to the organisation and logistics of intergenerational projects are necessary as they impact on the experience and outcomes for participants. The findings highlights the many benefits of intergenerational projects with regard to challenging negative stereotypes, encouraging participation in other educational and community activities, providing opportunities for participants, particularly older people, to transfer knowledge and skills and to be a positive influence over others and the potential for increased community tolerance, harmony and participation.
Murphy, C. (2012). Transferring Knowledge and LIfe Experience Between Generations: the Potential of Community Based Intergenerational Projects. Masters dissertation. Technological University Dublin. doi:10.21427/D73W50