Link Generations, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization focused on creating social and educational programs that connect older adults with adolescents to promote emotional and psychological health for both populations. Adolescents and older adults have developmental challenges in common that intergenerational programs can address for both populations. Both age groups face issues of identity formation, changes in independence status, depression, suicide, substance abuse, and changes in body image. This program advances the field of lifespan development through the provision of intergenerational services and the documentation of the outcomes, with the long-term goal of creating model programs that can be replicated across the United States.
Programs are developed in partnership with local high schools, recruiting students to participate as part of their community service graduation requirement. Students convene after school to plan structured activities appropriate for elderly residents in nearby assisted living facilities. As part of the after-school program, students are trained in basic principles of adult development and aging as well as practical techniques for working with older adults who have cognitive and physical limitations. Students design and lead activities that target cognitive stimulation, social interaction, and physical movement. Examples of activities are music, life story telling, art, and dance. Students draw on their own interests in these areas to help them feel comfortable working with elderly individuals.
Outcomes of these programs are benefits to both populations and to the community. Specifically, older adults feel a sense of purpose, connection to others, gain cognitive stimulation, and create legacy material through telling their stories to students. Adolescents improve self-esteem, learn to be with older adults, learn about history and how to write life stories, and fulfill social service and academic requirements. Finally, with changing demographics, society needs more people knowledgeable and willing to work with elderly populations. Intergenerational programming is a solution to this growing problem.
Link Generations was recognized as a 2018 Program of Distinction by Generations United, the national policy association founded to improve the lives of children, youth and older people through intergenerational collaboration. The Generations United Program of Distinction is awarded to organizations with the most effective intergenerational programs based on tested metrics that determine high-quality. By winning this designation, Link Generations becomes a nationally-recognized benchmark program.
Link Generations was founded by Lori N. Marks, PhD based on her 25 years in education and gerontology. She has built a vast network of professionals through teaching at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, leading the education and training division of a national medical association, volunteering in local schools and assisted living facilities. Dr. Marks earned her PhD in Health Education from the University of Maryland, an MS in Human Development and Family Studies from Penn State, and a BA in Psychology from Wellesley College.