Intergenerational Communities to Support Holistic Health

Introduction

Interconnection of spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of life is inevitable. Holistic health views these aspects as a whole and is aimed at working out approaches to treatment, which would be equally important for each of the aspects. Intergenerational communities are able to contribute to the holistic health of the senior population due to the implementation of intergenerational programs with the purpose of developing a sense of belonging and improving health status in general. Some of the scientists underestimate the contribution of intergenerational communities to senior health whereas others state that they lower health care costs and are beneficial for the senior populations. This dissertation will be a critical evaluation of the state of research currently available about reusing historic properties for senior housing and how best to integrate seniors into an existing community to support holistic health.

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The dissertation will reveal why community and intergenerational integration is important in supporting health from a holistic perspective with seniors defined as the population of men and women aged fifty-five to seventy-five. Namely, these ages have been chosen as age fifty-five is the entry age for most senior housing communities, and age seventy-five is regarded as the beginning of frailty in this population group.

Intergenerational integration is one of the decisive components of the intergenerational process which deals with improving the interaction between parents and their grown-up children. It was proved that strong intergenerational integration facilitates the confrontation of families with problems of social change and contributes greatly to supporting holistic health. Intergenerational communities play the role of an intermediary contributing to the holistic health of the senior population by means of the implementation of programs aimed at improving both the physical and psychological health of senior people.

Methodology

The overall argument is that intergenerational community integration in the design and execution of housing communities for the population defined contributes to holistic health as defined by key health markers. This integration and support of health may be shown to reduce health care costs in this population that are known as the most intense users of the health care system. This will be done by:

  1. Reviewing the literature on how holistic health practices reduce health care costs in this age group.
  2. Reviewing how intergenerational community design promotes health in this population.
  3. Defining what type of separation from the larger community is most desired by this age group and why.

I will do cross-cultural studies to establish validity by studying senior housing in Denmark and the United States. The cities have not yet been chosen. Cities with populations of 250,000 to 450,000 residents will be studied and compared to cities with populations of 750,000 to 950,000 residents. The information from Denmark will use existing studies completed there. The target population in the United States will be studied using tools to be determined after a review of the literature related to this field completed between 2000 and 2009.

Literature Review

Numerous scholarly works explore the topic of intergenerational communities and their benefit for the senior population. Most of the studies emphasize the importance of intergenerational communities due to the adults living in age-segregated communities which widen the generation gap and lead to the lack of understanding between people of different generations. The increase of costs for health care is also widely discussed. The scholars state that it has an enormous effect on the senior population and even influences the younger population indirectly. However, most of the studies are focused on psychological rather than financial aspects the intergenerational communities deal with; though unavailability of medications is indeed crucial, senior people suffer more from loss of connection between them and younger people, especially when it comes to their families and their grown-up children. Different intergenerational programs keep senior people occupied, give them emotional support, and reduce the stress they are subjected to. The scholars have different opinions as to the importance of intergenerational communities and their benefits for older people. A thorough analysis of the literature dealing with intergenerational issues is expected to show that intergenerational communities and programs are beneficial for the senior population.

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To begin with, most of the studies analyzed admit that the growth of health care costs made the treatment unavailable for most representatives of the senior population. Bradford & Max (1996) discovered that this increase in costs involves serious effects, “because community rating forces younger generations to share the costs at the point when those costs are relatively high, the shift of community rating works to the advantage of everyone living at the time of transition, relative to future generations, the higher the growth rate of health care costs. In effect, a new shift to community rating happens every year, so that the higher costs of health care in old age are moved forward to future younger generations”. Winograd & Hais (2008), in their turn, state that intergenerational communities “will provide more universality in health care insurance and greater equity of treatment”.

Moreover, other scholars, for instance, Cassel, keep to the point that age-based allocation of resources should be practiced to deal with the increase in costs for health care. Her studies denote that modern medicine makes it possible for senior people to live up to eighty or ninety years old. However, the unavailability of this medicine is problematic for the senior population, and “resources expended at the end of life need to be redirected to promote high-quality, appropriate palliative care, which also has its costs” (Cassel, 2005). Moreover, her studies emphasize that age is not a decisive factor to be used when working out a strategy for allocating resources. The author states that age “should be only infrequently regarded by physicians as an independent risk factor, and then only in combination with other serious conditions, when it may tip the balance of assessed risk for a treatment strategy” (Cassel, 2005). At this, other conditions may include health status and the evaluation of the chances of how successful the treatment will be.

Furthermore, the studies address the activities of intergenerational communities, their objectives, and achievements. For instance, Achenbaum explores intergenerational activities in the United States of America. These activities are directed towards older people who are in need of help. The author states that “such programs have become better planned and implemented with time” (2007), and that they are of great benefit for the senior population. Discussing the intergenerational programs, the scholars explore their influence on senior citizens. Though these programs are directed towards both the older and the younger generation, they are more beneficial for the former because they “can help senior citizens to feel a valued part of the community again” (Miller, 2002). A number of other scholars reaffirm the importance of intergenerational programs. Thus, Chelton & Young Adult Library Services Association (2000) consider that by means of these programs “the older adults have the opportunity to develop friendships and meaningful contacts with youth that expands their social interactions and allows them to share their life experiences, ultimately enhancing their life satisfaction through giving something of themselves to others”. Certain programs provide not only care for the senior population but ensure their education as well. Younger people are trained to teach older citizens and to handle the problems which may arise in the course of this teaching. “Mainly, they teach the senior citizens how to use the Internet and e-mail” (Braun, 2003), which is beneficial not only for senior people but for the youth themselves since they “realize how much they know in comparison to a beginner or intermediate user” (Braun, 2003).

Therefore, the analyzed literature corroborated that intergenerational communities together with intergenerational programs are beneficial for the senior population. The studies state that intergenerational communities can offer assistance in health care because the increased prices for medicines made them unavailable for senior citizens. Different intergenerational programs help older people feel their belonging to a certain community. Communicating with younger people, they are able to share their experience which gives them a chance of giving something to a society they live in. Finally, intergenerational programs educate senior citizens; at this, they are taught by the youth who also benefit from the role of teachers. Thus, intergenerational communities make it possible to integrate senior citizens into the existing community without their feeling at a loss and help them become full-fledged members of society.

References

Achenbaum, W.A. (2007). Older Americans, Vital Communities: A Bold Vision for Societal Aging. HU Press.

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Bradford, D.F., & Max, D.A. (1996). Intergenerational Transfers Under Community Rating. American Enterprise Institute.

Braun, L.W. (2003). Technically Involved: Technology-based Youth Participation Activities for Your Library. ALA Editions.

Cassel, C.K. (2005). Matters: What Geriatric Medicine Can Teach American Health Care. University of California Press

Chelton, M.A., & Young Adult Library Services Association. (2002). Excellence in Library Services to Young Adults: The Nation’s Top Programs. ALA Editions.

Miller, A. (2002). Mentoring Students & Young People: A Handbook of Effective Practice. Routledge.

Winograd, M., & Hais, M.D. (2008). Millennial Makeover: MySpace, YouTube, and the Future of American Politics. Rutgers University Press.

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