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Intergenerational Researchers from Trent University Investigate Intergenerational Care

December 4, 2018

Community members, students, and faculty come together to break down silos of care

Dawn Berry-Merriam, Allison Payne, Sam Michaelis and Peri Ballantyne

The set-up is familiar: seniors move to retirement homes when they can no longer manage their own households or long-term care facilities when they require round the clock support. The very young are cared for in daycare during their parent’s working hours. Outside of their personal family relationships, it is rare the two generations ever come in contact. During the course of leading a community roundtable discussion at The Mount Community Centre, it became clear to Dr. Peri Ballantyne, executive member of the Trent Centre for Aging & Society and associate professor of Sociology at Trent University that many in our community are not happy with this arrangement.

“We had interested members of the community, and representatives of various social organizations providing services to the young and old around the table,” Professor Ballantyne says. “We learned there is tremendous interest in intergenerational programming, but there are also barriers to overcome if they are to become ‘standard’ aspects of social care in our community.” 

Exploring a solution
In response, Prof. Ballantyne created a three-phase student practicum to investigate what might stand in the way of intergenerational care and how best to overcome such barriers. The project, called, Institutional Integration? Understanding Regulations Governing Child- and Elder-care Facilities in Ontario as a Means to Forward the Intergenerational Care Agenda will involve the completion of a literature review examining the policies that guide both long-term care and child-care in Ontario. It will also conduct a policy comparison of the Child Care and Early Years Act (2014) and the Long Term Care Homes Act (2007). The third phase will include organizing in-depth interviews with directors of aged-care and child-care facilities about what they view as regulatory hurdles to the implementation of regularized, ongoing intergenerational care programs, as well as the opportunities for such integration.

Fourth-year sociology student Sam Michaelis ‘12 and third-year sociology student Allison Payne ’16 have joined Prof. Ballantyne’s project.

“None of the research consulted in the literature review looked at policies or acts and how they may inhibit the formation of intergenerational programs and shared-sites to begin with,” says Michaelis. “As such, examining these policies is novel in that communities interested in intergenerational programs seem to take for granted this work has already been done.”

Advantages of intergenerational care
Many communities in Europe, the United States, Australia, and even Canada (the Meadows School Project in B.C., for example) have overcome barriers to launch successful intergenerational care. Their experiences reveal a number of exciting benefits. “For children,” Payne says, “the benefits include things like understanding and compassion towards aging people and people with differing abilities, opportunities for learning from another generation and learning together, and in some cases even a surrogate grandparent relationship occurred. The benefits for the elders in these studies were also impressive with outcomes such as increased interest in daily activities, improved mood, as well as a renewed sense of purpose.”

Tapping into community expertise
According to the Age-friendly Peterborough Community Action Plan, fostering intergenerational programming is a priority for the Peterborough Region. Dawn Berry-Merriam helped create that plan with many other dedicated community volunteers, and she is helping Ballantyne with this project too.  “One of the exciting things about the community research projects Trent University supports is the ability to co-ordinate academic interest and readings with community needs and experiences,” Berry-Merriam says. “My role is to work with Peri, the academic advisor, and use my community research and experience to guide the students as they document regulatory policies and procedures supporting (or inhibiting) intergenerational programme development. A project like this will be very meaningful to future planning at the Mount but also in the broader community.”