The award-winning, evidence-based Bridges Program Suite unites older adults and children in their own communities for shared experiences and cooperative learning. Through the Bridges program, generations grow in mutual respect, understanding, and friendship. Classroom learning is enhanced through these relationships.
Adults volunteer in the children’s classroom, library, or community center over several weeks. Under the guidance of the teacher or trained staff member, the volunteers work in pairs to facilitate small groups of students. Together, the seniors and students share their own life experiences and those of their families. These discussions are supplemented with creative, educational projects that promote shared perspectives.
The Bridges Program Suite curricula are innovative and have a proven track record. This unique intergenerational program model was first developed by Andrea Fonte Weaver in 1991 and has been successfully implemented in public schools, private schools, libraries, community centers, and senior centers, touching more than 10,000 lives. The Bridges programs empower professionals to engage older adults and children to enhance families, strengthen communities, promote positive attitudes about aging, and expand learning opportunities that support the national core educational standards.
- Youth Development: With a focused discussion on what seniors have done and can do, students are provided valuable growth opportunities. Bridges promotes a positive attitude in children about aging and fosters an inclination to spend time with older adults, as well as dispels fears of aging and ageist stereotypes. In sessions and reunions, students often comment on the knowledge and active, well-rounded lifestyles of seniors.
- Older Adults: IG programs provide a dedicated opportunity for seniors to spend time with children, learning about them and their lives today. Because of many societal changes, there are fewer occasions for these generations to come together for meaningful experiences. With the BT Program Suite, older adults will reconnect with old friends, make new friends, reflect on their lives and share their experiences and enjoy the vibrancy of children.
- Community Building: Bridges brings together multiple generations within the community: students, teachers and staff, and senior volunteers. The contribution of each generation is valued and vital. Participants of all ages meet new friends (both “old” and “young”) and discover that they have many more similarities than differences.
The Bridges Curricula
Three unique and innovative Bridges programs are available. Each is focused on a different student population, and was developed to be age and grade appropriate. These curricula overlap as different school systems are organized in different ways.