For the first time, this review by Drury et al pulls together the peer-reviewed research on contact between people of different generations. Psychologists view 'contact' in a broader way than we might expect - in this literature, for example, imagining a conversation with someone constitutes 'indirect' contact. Knowing that your friend is friends with an older person also constitutes 'indirect' contact, and produces measurable benefits.
The many benefits of good contact between old and young include better attitudes towards older people, less stereotyping and less anxiety about ageing. Some fairly new research even shows better job satisfaction for care workers. But contact in the wrong conditions can result in more negative attitudes, and the review firmly establishes the desired conditions which are more likely to lead to good outcomes. This gives us a set of principles and guidelines to work with in policy and practice.
Paying attention to good intergenerational contact, in all settings ranging from the workplace to more informal activities, is more than just 'icing on the cake'.
There are always difficult decisions to be made about funding, and specific programmes bringing together people of different ages may well be beyond the current capacities of many service providers. However, this review offers new information and the potential for cost effective, creative ideas, for better contact between generations.
Director of Policy and Reseach