The effect of intergenerational programs on the mental health of elderly adults

Aging Ment Health. 2015;19(4):306-14. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2014.933309. Epub 2014 Jul 10.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to clarify the effect of an intergenerational program on elderly persons' symptoms of depressive mood and in improving their sense of coherence, which is an element for successful coping with stressors.

Method: We evaluated an intervention research project (Research of Productivity by Intergenerational Sympathy [REPRINTS]), in which volunteers >65 years old read picture books to children in a school setting. The intervention group (REPRINTS) was recruited through intensive weekly training seminars for three months. The no-contact control group members were also recreated to participate in health checks and surveys for data collection purposes. Eventually, 26 participants in the intervention group and 54 in the control group were included for data analysis.

Results: The age or gender was not significantly different between the intervention and control groups. A two-way repeated-measures ANOVA shows a time × group significant interaction effects. Analyses of the simple main effects showed that sense of meaningfulness significantly increased for members of the intervention group at all terms, with no changes in the control group over time. Multiple mediation analysis revealed that participation in the intergenerational program was associated with a sense of manageability which was also significantly related to depressive mood.

Conclusion: Intergenerational programs could serve as key health promoters among elderly people by decreasing the risk of social isolation and loneliness due to the greater sense of meaningfulness. However, given our limited sample size, generalizability was restricted and studies with larger cohorts are required to further validate our findings.

Keywords: depressive mood; intergenerational program; mental health; older adults; psychosocial interventions; sense of coherence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Mental Health
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Reading
  • Schools
  • Sense of Coherence
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy
  • Students
  • Tokyo