Press Release

Five Intergenerational Programs Selected for National Distinction

Designation serves as the U.S. benchmark for intergenerational programs.

(Washington, DC) – Generations United announced five intergenerational programs have been selected to receive the prestigious 2018 Programs of Distinction designation. The five programs are: Family Friends Program (Philadelphia, PA), Friends in Schools Helping (FISH)(Charlottesville, VA), Link Generations (Bethesda, MD), STEP – Sharing Teens and Elders Project (Olympia and Lacey, WA) and The UNISON-Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Tutor Program (Milwaukee, WI).

“We congratulate these programs for earning this distinction and their dedication to high-quality intergenerational practices,” said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United. “The Program of Distinction designation is the only U.S. ‘seal of approval’ for intergenerational programs. The application and review process are rigorous. Achieving this recognition is a major accomplishment and says a program employs best practices and effectively engages the young and old while serving the surrounding community.”

Generations United launched the Program of Distinction designation in 2010 to recognize excellence while celebrating the rich diversity among intergenerational programs.  An outside panel of experts selects designees based on evidence-based standards for quality programming, such as preparing participants, staff training, partner engagement, and use of evaluation data. Since the inception of the program, 32 intergenerational programs from across the nation have been selected to receive the designation, which is valid for three years.

Intergenerational programs are those which increase cooperation, interaction and exchange between people of different generations, allowing them to share their talents and resources, and support each other in ongoing relationships that benefit both the individuals and their community.

Family Friends Program (, a program of the Intergenerational Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, links older mentors with families with special needs. The term “special needs” embraces a wide range of specific challenges for families, including kin raising children without their biological parents and caregivers raising children/youth while coping with chronic illnesses and other disabilities/challenges. The mentors love serving in their community and form healthy, ongoing relationships with children/youth and their families.

Friends in Schools Helping (FISH) ( is an intergenerational school-based mentoring program providing support to address the critical needs of students in public schools in central Virginia. Adult volunteers mentor students who can benefit from individualized attention within a classroom setting. FISH provides satisfying and meaningful experiences for participants: older adult mentors find rewarding ways to contribute their time and talent; students build the skills and confidence they need to succeed academically; and teachers and school administrators are better able to allocate their limited time and resources.

Link Generations ( educates middle and high school students about aging and best practices for working with older adults. The program facilitates intergenerational programs that students lead with older adults to apply what they have learned. Students are provided with training to plan and lead engaging activities with older adults in assisted and independent living communities. Students then implement programs using those best practices.

Sharing Teens and Elders Project (STEP) ( is a multi-generational program where teens and elders gather to bridge the generations through the Art of Conversation. Youth and older adults gather to talk, to listen, and to be heard. STEP strives to increase the mental well-being of all participants, to help decrease social isolation, and to create a safe space where people talk and find their similarities while sharing their experiences. STEP promotes ideas that give rise to happiness, belonging, security, wisdom and the realization that disparate age groups can have genuine fun together.

The UNISON-Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Tutor Program ( is a collaboration between UNISON’s Senior Corps volunteers and Milwaukee Public Schools. The partnership began in 2011 with the goal of combating the low literacy rates of Milwaukee’s elementary school children. This intergenerational program was developed with the understanding that our community’s older adults can serve as tutors and mentors for children, and that this interaction can benefit both the children and the older adults involved.

Learn more about what it means to be a Program of Distinction and other programs that have received the designation.

About Generations United: For three decades, Generations United’s mission has been to improve the lives of children, youth and older adults through intergenerational collaboration, public policies and programs for the enduring benefit of all. We have been the catalyst for policies and practices stimulating cooperation and collaboration among generations, evoking the vibrancy, energy and sheer productivity that result when people of all ages come together.  We believe that we can only be successful in the face of our complex future if generational diversity is regarded as a national asset and fully leveraged.