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“Intergenerational Contact Zones:” A Framework for Investigating and Designing Spaces for Intergenerational Engagement

Posted: September 1, 2015

Intergenerational Contact Zones – or ICZs for short, serve as spatial focal points for older adults and younger generations to meet, interact, build trust and friendships, and work together to address issues of local concern. They can be found in all types of community settings including libraries, schools, parks, and multi-service community centers.
During the “think tank” on Intergenerational Contact Zones hosted by the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, workshop participants engaged in an exercise aimed at exploring ways to apply intergenerational design concepts in various community settings.

During the “think tank” on Intergenerational Contact Zones hosted by the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, workshop participants engaged in an exercise aimed at exploring ways to apply intergenerational design concepts in various community settings.

The topic of ICZs took center stage at a meeting held at the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing (OIPA) on June 26, 2015. A multi-disciplinary group of 13 scholars and practitioners engaged in groundwork discussions and collaborative inquiry aimed at exploring existing approaches and charting new strategies for creating and/or enhancing intergenerational spaces.

Through short presentations and team problem-solving exercises, meeting participants discussed ways to create community spaces that engender social connections across generations. It was determined that the such meeting places – or Intergenerational Contact Zones, if designed in ways that are consistent with people’s interests and needs for strengthening their connections with family, friends, and neighbors, can have a profound impact not only on the quality of life of older adults, but for all community residents.

To find out more about this meeting and some of the examples and principles introduced for developing creative and effective ICZs, see the “Intergenerational Contact Zones – What and Why?” blog posted on OIPA’s website. Feel free to join the conversation; just post a comment on this blog page.

Next steps for the ICZ working group:

  • Additional blog postings on ICZ-related topics.
  • A working paper: [Tentative title] “What are ‘Intergenerational Contact Zones’ and Why Should We Pay Attention to Them?”
  • An outreach education publication highlighting the ICZ concept and application principles and ideas: [Tentative title] “Things to Keep in Mind When Developing Intergenerational Spaces/Settings.”

To find out more about the ICZ working group and its projects, including how to join the group and contribute to these initiatives, contact Matt Kaplan at msk15@psu.edu.

[Photo: Pictured (from left to right): Mariano Sanchez (Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Granada, Spain; AESE Visiting Scholar - 2012-13 and Penn State Center for Healthy Aging international affiliate faculty), Alan Hatton-Yeo (MBE, Director of Age Friendly Communities Wales and Communities for All Ages/UK), Susan Langford (MBE, Director, Magic Me – London), Matt Kaplan (Professor, Penn State University), and Jaco Hoffman (James Martin Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Institute of Population Ageing; Professor, Ageing and Generational Dynamics in Africa Programme, North-West University, South Africa).]