The Atlantic’s recent article, The New Old Age, marks a milestone for CoGenerate (formerly Encore.org), an indication of the uptake of ideas and language we’d been working to develop, implement and disseminate for more than a decade. Written by David Brooks,...
A new documentary film, Ink & Linda, chronicles the unexpected friendship between Inksap, a Vietnamese-American street artist in his 20s, and Linda, a white modern dance teacher in her 70s. Shortly after a chance encounter brings these two together, they begin...
We’re out to show the world that older and younger people can help solve pressing problems when they work together. To that end, today we’re launching the CoGen Challenge to Advance Economic Opportunity, a partnership with the Ares Charitable Foundation to elevate...
Sages & Seekers is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that matches high schoolers with elders to combat ageism and social isolation through meaningful conversation. Its founder, Elly Katz, is a CoGenerate Innovation Fellow. A recent Sages & Seekers newsletter...
These Foster Grandparents Are Teaming Up With Young People to Reduce Loneliness and Improve Mental Health
Raquel Padia, volunteer specialist at the Fresno (CA) Economic Opportunities Commission, leads the project to create lesson plans aimed at increasing connection and belonging
What is your program called, and how does it work?
Our program is called Generations Serving Together, Fresno. It is an intergenerational mental wellness team. Older and younger volunteers come together as a team to create lesson plans that focus on emotional literacy, coping skills and identifying feelings. We’ve based it on the 87 emotions that Brené Brown includes in her book, Atlas of the Heart.
Many of the people aged 55+ are part of the AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparent Program. Those aged 21 to 35 are a mix of college students and community members. By coming together to create these lesson plans, they’re creating meaningful connections within and across generations. As a result, they’re better able to show up for the young people they serve.
Right now, these intergenerational teams are tea ching youth ages 7 to 20 at two Boys and Girls Clubs and at the Fresno Economic Opportunities Local Conservation Corps YouthBuild Charter School.
Why did you want to be part of Generations Serving Together, bringing cogeneration into national service?
I’m excited by the opportunity to bridge the gaps between generations and create a cogenerative approach to our work. Oftentimes, we see one generation serving the other. But with cogeneration, we recognize that different generations have different, but equal, strengths, experiences and stories. That creates a different mindset that’s helping us bring people together to better serve our community.
What problem is your program trying to solve?
Mental health and loneliness. Post pandemic, our most vulnerable populations — young people and older ones — are experiencing more loneliness and other mental health problems. Through this program and the connections that take place, we’re creating a safe environment and a sense of belonging for everyone.
What’s the value of a cogenerational approach?
You get the best of both worlds. With our older generation, we see experiences and wisdom and so much knowledge. With the younger generation, they have a strong drive to learn and bring innovative, timely ideas. Together, they make a powerful team that creates change.
What’s your big audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see?
My vision is to provide a feeling of belonging to those who have felt isolated. To show how young people and older adults in our community are creating something new and transformative – a safe space for everyone to experience joy and sadness. The ultimate goal is to reduce loneliness, improve mental health, and strengthen connection and belonging.
How can people get involved with your work?
What are you most proud of in your life?
I’m so proud that I’m in a position to be able to do the work that I do and have the most amazing supportive team with me.