Intergenerational Communities: A Systematic Literature Review of Intergenerational Interactions and Older Adults’ Health-Related Outcomes
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RATIONALE: Population aging is a major societal challenge that the US and many other countries are facing. The roles of intergenerational interactions are being increasingly recognized as important factors influencing health and well-being of older adults and other generations. OBJECTIVE: This systematic review paper provides a critical assessment of the current state of knowledge about the impacts of intergenerational activities on older adults' health-related outcomes. METHODS: Literature searches were conducted in October 2019 within MEDLINE, SocIndex, APA PsycInfo, and CINAHL Complete, using a pre-developed list of relevant keywords. Identified papers were reviewed and selected based on the following eligibility criteria: (1) older adults aged 50 or over as the study population, (2) nonfamily member intergenerational interactions as independent variables, (3) older adults' health-related outcomes as dependent variables, and (4) empirical and quantitative studies performed in the US and written in English. A total of 24 out of 22,674 identified articles met these eligibility criteria. RESULTS: All of the 24 studies focused on evaluating intergenerational programs and their intervention effects. No studies addressed community or environmental interventions/effects. Program-based intergenerational interactions showed positive associations with older adults' physical health, psychosocial health (e.g. reduced depression), cognitive function, social relationships, and well-being/quality of life. Moreover, engagement in intergenerational activities was linked with increased physical and social activities. CONCLUSIONS: This review showed solid evidence supporting the significance of program-based interventions in promoting intergenerational activities and associated health benefits. Significant knowledge gaps are also found resulting from the lack of studies examining the roles of physical environmental interventions/factors, diverse types of intergenerational interactions, and location-driven activities. Such studies can contribute to a better understanding of the specific attributes, both program-based and place-based supports, of the community environment that can promote intergenerational interactions and healthy aging in place.
author list (cited authors)
Zhong, S., Lee, C., Foster, M. J., & Bian, J.