(Soccer ball) Bring different generations together to experience the joys of teamwork and friendly competition


An intergenerational sports day event involves bringing people of different generations together to experience the joys of teamwork and friendly competition. The sport(s) selected for the event should be sports that evoke interest from participants of all represented generations.

Participant Requirements

The youth should be old enough to understand the concepts of "teamwork" and cooperative play. The older adults should be healthy and willing enough to engage children and youth in an active recreation experience. Most sports can be modified to accommodate different levels of physical ability.


  • Provide an intergenerational group of participants with an organized sports experience.

  • Nourish existing intergenerational relationships and stimulate the formation of new ones.

Academic Connections/Life Skills

physical education, teamwork, communication, cooperation.


all of the items required to play the selected sport(s).


  1. Establish a planning group:
  • If the event is sponsored by local organizations that serve young people and older adults -- such as a local school and a senior center -- then there are likely to be sports and recreation staff available to help with the planning process. On a more informal level, an intergenerational sports event can be organized by a group of families with a history of getting together, such as for block parties and holiday functions.
  1. Select one or more sports to play:
  • Try to take into account the following: level of interest on the part of would-be participants, availability of people with the expertise to plan and run the event, appropriateness in light of participants' abilities, consistency with local cultures and traditions (e.g., a neighborhood with many older Italian residents is likely to respond well to a Bocce' event), and available resources (e.g., a neighborhood bowling alley).
  1. Set your own rules:
  • Modify sports activities as the planning group sees fit. For example if there are older adults who like baseball but have a hard time running around the bases, use children as "pinch runners."
  • Form teams: Once teams are formed, have a brief team meeting in which participants introduce themselves and discuss their interests and experiences regarding the sport(s) at hand.
  1. The competition: Play ball!!
  2. Afterwards:
  • Try to hold a short "debriefing" meeting to allow participants to share their feelings about the day's activities.If not articulated by any of the participants, emphasize the value of maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle throughout one's life.(In other words, people of all ages need to be physically active to maintain health and well-being.)Other issues that might come out include surprise at the agility of the senior adults and the level of cooperation by the youth participants.Include some informal socializing time for when the sporting event is over.If appropriate, try to determine people's level of interest in making this an annual or ongoing event.


The bonding that takes place between members of a sports team (and between competitors) is often very profound and can lead to friendships that last a lifetime. Remember not to neglect the social interaction aspects of the intergenerational sports day. Also, make sure that the spirit of competition does not get out of hand.

Many schools conduct game day-type events.With little extra trouble, and a lot of potential extra benefit, an intergenerational component can be woven into such events by inviting members of a nearby senior center.Spring Track Days represent another school-based activity which is a good candidate for the weaving in of an intergenerational component.

An idea similar to hosting an "intergenerational sports day" is to hold an "Intergenerational Olympics." In the framework provided by Intergenerational Innovations, an organization in Seattle, Washington, an "Intergenerational Olympics" event can include tournaments in tennis, ping pong, scrabble, trivia, and chess, as well as other activities. One idea for ensuring that adults are included in the teams is to call the event a "Century Tournament" and require each team to be made up of two members who together equal 100 years or older.

To generate more notable and sustainable changes in health and fitness, consider creating an extended training period before the event as well as follow-up training and sports participation opportunities after the event.

Kaplan and Hanhardt , 2003
Copyright © 2003 The Pennsylvania State University

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Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging

Contact Us

Matthew Kaplan, Ph.D.
  • Professor, Intergenerational Programs and Aging