Introduction and Background
Last summer’s Link Generations interns worked on a process to highlight the stories that come out of Link Generations programs. When we first created Link Generations, we knew that younger and older participants benefited from the interactive discussions with each other. We observed real time during the program that participants were feeling more connected to others, more comfortable with people in different generations, more skilled at making conversations, and more open to learning about people from different age groups and backgrounds. These observations were based on shared smiles during conversations, body language leaning in to listen to each other, spontaneous singing along, and increased talking during the sessions. Follow-up evaluation surveys also showed these findings.
Then the pandemic struck, and we were unable to meet in person. Although we recreated the intergenerational connections through letter-writing and zoom conversations, the positive connections were harder to observe during the long distance interactions. We could not always see the increased smiles or relaxing body language signifying the growing comfort level among participants. Without knowing when we could resume in-person programming, we searched for a way to keep building the intergenerational connections that became even more critical during pandemic-related social isolation. We realized that we could document the stories and share the lessons learned from those stories with a wider audience.
This revelation led to our summer research project with Kimberly Dorsey, Lila Joffe, and Giuliana Conte. They worked on four parts to the project:
- Literature review: they reviewed and critiqued current articles about using storytelling for social sciences and evaluation.
- Link Generations storytelling process: they outlined steps for documenting stories from Link Generations programs to demonstrate the intergenerational connections that result from programs.
- Case study: they participated in Link Generations programs and documented a sample case study to demonstrate how to document Link Generations conversations.
- Follow-up questions: they created questions that can be used to follow up with participants to further show the impact of intergenerational connections and lessons learned from the experience.
We made many discoveries during the summer and will share them with you through Stories that Link Generations posted on our website. You’ll get to hear how much we all learn from each other when we open ourselves to intergenerational conversations and multiple perspectives. Program participants said it best this summer,
“I loved hearing the stories. They were really cool! It’s something I don’t have in my life, it was interesting to see the different points of view.”
“I felt like there were a lot of lessons that we learned, especially since the questions were about experiences…those kind of questions lead to younger people learning, hearing, and listening.”
“The thing that I loved the most is connecting with a younger generation. Especially since I have 3 grandchildren, and I get to understand them a little bit more that way. It’s wonderful to see what the younger generation is doing…I think connecting with all kinds of people is the best thing in the world. You get to learn so much about what’s going on, and rather than being stuck in your little old ways, you get to learn what the younger kids are doing, and how they do it and how they think.”