Ageless Education: Researchers
Create Guide For Intergenerational
Classrooms At Nursing Homes
in Medical Xpress; Provided by Kansas State
July 25, 2012
Gfeller, research assistant and instructor with
the College of Human Ecology's Center on Aging,
has recently published a guidebook -- "Uniting
Wonder With Wisdom, An Intergenerational Classroom
Replication Guide" -- outlining ways to create a
successful intergenerational program involving
nursing home residents and kindergarten and
preschool students. Others at Kansas State
University involved include: Gayle Doll, director
of the Center on Aging; Jane Marshall,
communications coordinator of the College of Human
Ecology; and Mary Hammel, associate director for
creative service in the College of Education.
The guidebook emphasizes a program with a profound
purpose: To integrate the school setting and
nursing home setting into an environment where
both children and nursing home residents can
benefit from each other.
"By bringing elders and children together,
it gives elders a renewed sense of purpose, a
sense of value and a role again in our society,"
Gfeller said. "It gives these children the
opportunity to develop academically, but it's
amazing to see the social development that occurs
when the children are interacting with the
elders." The project began when Gfeller was
evaluating an existing intergenerational classroom
for kindergarteners and residents at Windsor Place
nursing home in Coffeyville, Kan.
The project became a way for Gfeller to create a
replication guide for the intergenerational
classroom so that other interested parties had the
key pieces to create an intergenerational program.
Gfeller met with two other nursing homes -- Grace
Living Center in Jenks, Okla., and Windsor Place
in Iola, Kan. -- that had existing
intergenerational classrooms for kindergarteners
and preschool students.
"We really see this as a great opportunity for
helping people see that elders are still valuable
individuals in our society," said Gfeller, who is
also the mother of a 4-year-old. "As a
gerontologist, I was very excited about this
program and its potential for elders. As a parent,
I was very intrigued by the program and the
opportunities that it brings for children."
In Coffeyville, the program involves a
classroom placed in the heart of the nursing home.
Students are greeted by residents from the start of
the day as they walk through the nursing home into
their classroom. During the school day, residents
come into the classroom for reading time, crafts,
holiday celebrations and other activities. The
children also have activities in the nursing home
and their playground is on nursing home grounds.
"Residents become volunteer teachers in the
classroom," Gfeller said. "Every day, these children
are getting one-on-one time with an elder who is
helping them work on writing and reading."
Through a three-year qualitative and quantitative
study, Gfeller found numerous benefits and outcomes
of an intergenerational classroom. Quantitative
results showed that nursing home residents were able
to uphold basic skills while maintaining and
sometimes improving their health status. Qualitative
data showed that nursing home residents experienced
mood enhancements and felt that had a sense of value
and purpose. They spoke of feeling needed, which
pushed them to work to recover more quickly from
Gfeller plans follow-up studies that examine the
benefits that children receive from such an
"With our society the way it is today, many
children don't have access to a grandparent,"
Gfeller said. "This is an opportunity to provide
both of these generations the opportunity to come
together and share their knowledge and their time in
a way that these kids and elders may not get
The guidebook offers suggestions on
intergenerational classroom layout, goals, vision
and community involvement. It uses tables to
demonstrate responsibilities of people involved in
the program, while worksheets help to form
measurable goals and develop ways to evaluate the
program. An accompanying DVD with interviews and
testimonials explains program benefits and shows the
interaction between elders and students.
"For each section -- getting started, getting
approval, setting up the classroom and evaluation --
we have included a tool within the document to help
with these steps," Gfeller said. "The guidebook
really walks through the process of clarifying your
vision. We wanted the guidebook to contain enough
information to help a person work through the
process but not so much to be overwhelming."