While early reading proficiency and higher education are essential to young people achieving long-term quality of life, health is a key factor in the quality of life of older adults. A lack of social, cognitive, and physical activity have a direct tie to diminished cognitive function; reduced independence; increased risk of falls and fractures; and increased rates of disability, hospitalizations, and death.

Like most nonprofits, funders, policy makers, and professionals typically propose separate solutions for the problems these two groups face. Educators suggest enrichment and remediation for enhancing academic outcomes; health care professionals propose diet, exercise, and other medical interventions for improving health outcomes for older adults. However, as other essays in this series have discussed, age-segregated solutions overlook the profound ways in which young and older individuals can benefit from mutual engagement—young people from extra support, older adults from healthy activity and engagement in meaningful societal roles. Tutoring support in the classroom is no exception. An intergenerational approach where older adults step in to help students learn can benefit both.

There are many high-quality, local tutoring programs in the United States that engage older adults and young children, including Reading Partners and Oasis. There are also a few national programs, including AARP’s Experience Corps, which now operates in more than 22 cities, with tutors spending four hours or more hours each week working with students.

While these programs are incredibly valuable, students in under-resourced schools often need more sustained and community-centric support. With this in mind, we designed a classroom assistance program, Generation Xchange, that goes beyond the typical tutoring initiative, offering students and teachers direct and lasting classroom support. Generation Xchange launched in 2014 as a partnership between UCLA’s Department of Geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine and the Los Angeles Unified School District. The program recruits retired adult volunteers age 50 and older from communities in South Los Angeles to assist and mentor students in local elementary schools.

Read the full article about intergenerational classroom support by Dawn Purnell, D’Ann Morris and Teresa Seeman at Stanford Social Innovation Review.