Bridges Together Inc. was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 2012, but its roots go back to 1991, when founder and executive director Andrea J. Fonte Weaver created the seed of what is now known as the Bridges Program Curricula Suite and launched her career designing, implementing and evaluating intergenerational (IG) programs.
Twenty-five years ago, Andrea began a grant-funded position as an intergenerational (IG) specialist and she launched what would become Bridges: Growing Together (our program uniting older adults and 3rd – 6th grade youth) in Sudbury, Massachusetts. Through word of mouth, Bridges grew – as did people’s awareness of the need for effective IG programs.
In 2012, Bridges Together was incorporated as a 501(c)(3).
Today, we have a three-pronged approach to our work.
Advocacy: Bridges Together knows the efficacy and documented benefits of intergenerational programming, and as such, we are dedicated to promoting and pressing for an intergenerational mindset in families, communities and governing bodies. Please take a look at the Advocacy section of our website to learn more about the advocacy work that we do.
Packaged Bridges Program Curricula: What started as a one-time program in one classroom has now turned into a national program, affecting 2,040 youth and adults aged 60+ during the 2015-2016 academic year alone. The Bridges Program Curricula Suite now includes four programs – Bridges: Our Stories for early readers, Bridges: Growing Together for late-elementary aged students, Bridges: Our Smarts for middle schoolers and Bridges: Lifelong Journeys for high school and college students. Since 1991, the Bridges program has touched the lives of more than 13,000 participants.
Custom Training: But it’s not just about the Bridges program. Bridges Together Inc. encourages and equips others to design their own intergenerational programs, specifically suited to their own communities’ needs. In 2015-16, we educated more than 650 people on the need for intergenerational programs and how to create effective ones.
What makes us unique? At Bridges Together, we focus on:
- The human development theories that undergird a strong intergenerational program
- Including the best practices of the field of intergenerational studies, volunteer management and contemporary education
- Community leadership teams comprised of a youth-focused organization and a senior-focused organization, promoting strong bonds between all parties
And our goals are to:
- Increase young people’s understanding of and comfort with older adults both in their families and communities
- Help people, especially young people, develop positive attitudes about aging
- Provide opportunities for older adults to engage in meaningful ways with youth
- Nurture the intellectual and social development of adults aged 60+
- Train teachers as well as staff from aging services and community centers on how to successfully implement a well-cultivated intergenerational program
- Foster unity among different organizations in one community
Bridges Together has appeared in The Boston Globe, as well as other publications. The Gerontologist published a study demonstrating a “legacy effect” for children who participated in Bridges in fourth grade – by high school, these students had more positive views of aging and older adults than their peers who did not participate in Bridges or a similar program. Staff members regularly present at conferences and provide training to groups seeking guidance on intergenerational issues.
HISTORY TIMELINE OF BRIDGES TOGETHER
1991: Andrea begins her career as an Intergenerational (IG) Specialist and pilots the Bridges: Growing Together program as well as designs, implements and evaluates programs involving senior centers and the greater community
1992: Andrea becomes a member and eventual leader in the Massachusetts Intergenerational Network
1994: Bridges is led in new communities by Andrea. Other communities hire her to design, implement and evaluate custom programs
2000: Bridges expands district-wide in Sudbury, involving 17 classrooms of 4th graders and 136 seniors
2003: Other New England communities purchase, train with and implement the Bridges program
2012: Bridges Together is incorporated as a not-for-profit, charitable organization
2013: Bridges: Our Smarts middle school program is developed
2014: Bridges: Our Stories program for early readers is developed
2016: Bridges: Lifelong Journeys high school program is developed
2018: Launched Bridges Together membership
Since Bridges Together was incorporated in 2012, 16 new communities have implemented one or more of its programs, engaging nearly 2,000 children, 600 seniors, and 75 community leaders. Hundreds more community leaders are currently attending workshops and/or being trained to launch new their own custom IG programs.