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Great vision without great people is irrelevant.

– Jim Collins

Having the right staff is critical to the success of your shared site. It is important to put a lot of thought into hiring and retaining high-quality staff who are committed to the concept of intergenerational shared sites and possess the knowledge and skills needed to promote meaningful cross-age interaction.

There are a variety of staffing models that are employed by shared sites across the country. These may vary depending on:

  • Whether one organization oversees services to both children and older adults, or separate organizations coordinate each program
  • The size of the facility and the range of different program services (e.g., independent living, adult day care, skilled nursing, assisted living, child care, preschool, kindergarten)
  • Financial resources

Regardless of your size or management model, the key question is: Who is responsible for planning and facilitating activities and fostering cross-age relationships?

St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care

6.1 Staffing Models

Champion Intergenerational Center

The following are different staffing models currently in use.

Model 1:

An Intergenerational Coordinator is hired to oversee intergenerational activities. Research and interviews with current shared site providers indicate that having an Intergenerational Coordinator will greatly increase the likelihood of successful intergenerational interaction. Responsibilities for a coordinator might include:

  • Planning and facilitating the implementation of structured cross-age activities in conjunction with appropriate staff. This may include mentoring staff and students who share responsibility for facilitating programming.
  • Creating opportunities for informal interactions
  • Scheduling use of shared space, resources and equipment
  • Coordinating staff meetings and conducting staff trainings
  • Building collaborative relationships among staff of various program components
  • Serving as the liaison with community partners
  • Assisting with the selection of new staff
  • Reporting progress and challenges related to intergenerational programming
  • Introducing innovation to continually enhance programming
  • Assisting with evaluation of intergenerational programs
  • Assuming safety and supervision responsibilities

The Coordinator can be located within the child-care or adult services departments or at one of the organizational partners. However, it is imperative that they work closely with both older adult and child-care staff to ensure that activities are developmentally appropriate. The role of the Intergenerational Coordinator and expectations of staff regarding cross-age programming should be clearly communicated. It is best to build the Intergenerational Coordinator position into ongoing service provision funding rather than special grants that may not be sustained over time.

For examples of Intergenerational Coordinator job descriptions, click on the links below:

EXAMPLE: ONEgeneration, Van Nuys, CA

At ONEgeneration in California, the Intergenerational Program Specialist is located in the Adult Daycare department. She and another Adult Daycare staff member meet with classroom teachers for each age group once per month to plan activities. Each program (Child Care and Adult Daycare) is responsible for creating developmentally-appropriate activities on certain days of the week. The Intergenerational Program Specialist then finalizes a calendar for the month. The teams also discuss the efficacy of the previous month’s intergenerational programs and ways they could be improved. In addition to these formal monthly meetings, informal meetings between teachers and the Intergenerational Program Specialist occur regularly to address any questions/concerns.

Model 2:

Responsibilities are shared between child care and adult services staff in the same organization.  Directors and/or key staff from the child care and older adult programs work together to plan and implement all intergenerational activities. In this model, it is important to include intergenerational responsibilities in the job descriptions of directors and staff, create a structure for ongoing communication and joint planning, and clarify when activities will occur and who will facilitate them.

EXAMPLE: Kingsley House, New Orleans, LA

At Kingsley House in New Orleans, the Program Directors for Early Learning Services and Adult Day Care, along with their leadership teams, coordinate all intergenerational activities and maintain ongoing communication to ensure the smooth flow of events. At least monthly, leadership staff from each program meet together to schedule formal intergenerational activities, coordinate program calendars, and work out logistics and expected outcomes for each activity. Lead staff for each activity varies, depending upon the expertise that each event or activity requires. For example, the planning and organization for a Friday morning intergenerational make-your-own-waffle breakfast would likely be facilitated by the Food Services Director. On the other hand, an activity that involves adults and seniors reading to young children would likely be organized by one or more of the Early Learning Services lead teachers, since this kind of intergenerational activity requires training and coaching of the readers to ensure their effectiveness with the children.

Model 3:

A staff person from either child care or adult services assumes primary responsibility for intergenerational programming. In some shared sites, one person is responsible for program planning, with input from other departments.

EXAMPLE: Kendal at Oberlin, Oberlin, OH

At Kendal Oberlin in Ohio, a variety of departments (e.g., Early Learning Center, Dining, Creative Arts Therapy, Nursing) all report to a four-person executive committee. Intergenerational activities are planned by Child Care staff, with input from Creative Therapy staff. Although they don’t have a clearly defined structure for working together, they do have a “culture of collaboration.” On an informal basis, Nursing staff lets Child Care staff know who from their department is interested in participating in activities and how. Every quarter, a small committee (including one resident and staff from Dining and Creative Therapies) meets to do some planning and identify residents and college students who could help with programming.

Model 4:

Each partner organization has a person who is responsible for intergenerational activities. When two separate organizations provide different services, each will likely want to designate a person on their team to oversee intergenerational activities. It is very helpful to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for both organizations to clarify roles and responsibilities, identify a structure for ongoing communication, and delineate expectations for staff training. Staff or administrative turnover at one or both of the partner organizations can present challenges in this model, so it is important to be mindful of this.

EXAMPLE: Mount Kisco Child Care Center, Mount Kisco, NY

At Mt. Kisco Child Care Center in New York, one staff person from each side (child care and adult care) is designated as a liaison. Together, they collect activity ideas from intergenerational teams, schedule and promote special programs (e.g., horticulture therapy, music), plan events, and create a common activity calendar.   The two work together to create a trusting and safe environment where children and older adults can build long-lasting relationships through planned and spontaneous interactions.

No matter which staffing model you choose, collaboration is essential. Creating an environment in which the sharing of expertise and knowledge, regular communication across departments/ organizations, and joint planning of activities are EXPECTED is critical for all intergenerational shared sites.

“The key to success in an intergenerational shared site is creating a culture of collaboration.”

— Jeni Hoover, Kendal at Oberlin