The Los Angeles Generation Xchange (GenX) program is an intergenerational, academic-community partnership between the Division of Geriatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The Gen X program is currently in four elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District; 54th, 59th, 74th and Windsor Hills Elementary Street Schools. The GenX Program trains and places older volunteers in K-3rd grade classrooms where they work with students to improve academic skills (reading and math) and address behavioral issues (e.g., inability to focus during class sessions, behaviors that disrupt class activities).
For the older adults, participation in GenX as a trained classroom volunteer offers the opportunity to engage in a meaningful and important role helping younger generations while simultaneously gaining health benefits from the social, psychological, cognitive, and physical engagement associated with their GenX role. We recruit Gen X adult participants from the communities around our schools and the schools we focus on are those that are chronically under resourced and underperforming. Thus, the communities from which we recruit our Gen X adults also tend to be characterized by disproportionately high adult health risks. The Gen X program offers potentially important health promotion for these adults but it is the ability of the Gen X program to appeal to older adults’ altruism and the sense of purpose and accomplishment they report from working with the children that keep them engaged with the program over time. As a result, program volunteers receive a more persistent “dose” of health promotion than is frequently the case with alternative health promotion efforts that do not enjoy the advantage of appealing to people’s interest doing things to help others rather than simply to help themselves.
For the children, the GenX program seeks to improve academic and behavioral outcomes by pairing the Gen X adult participants with children in grades K through 3rd grade who may need a bit more attention and support to succeed in school. Our goal is to provide additional resources in the form of GenX team members who can work with students to increase their success rates in meeting grade level standards for reading and math, ultimately reducing the current inequities in academic success between students attending schools with lower rates of grade-level proficiency and those attending schools with higher rates of proficiency.
Results to date have been extraordinarily positive. GenX team members have been extremely positive about their experiences and nearly all participants have continued once they joined the program. We have also documented evidence of health benefits such as reductions in blood pressure and weight loss as well as evidence of greater physical stamina and mobility (i.e., increased ability to climb stairs, faster walking speeds). Social and psychological benefits include 100% of participants reporting development of new friendships and reductions in reported loneliness. Principals and teachers at schools where the program has been implemented have also reported that children have benefited both academically and behaviorally (better reading, fewer office referrals) as a result of the GenX presence in the classrooms.
Overall, this intergenerational program seems to live up to its original goal of creating a “win-win” situation where both the children and adults engaged in the program enjoy benefits from their interactions with one another.
For additional information or to become a part of our GenX Volunteer Team, contact D’Ann Morris @ [email protected] or call 310-825-8253.