Ypsi initiative focuses on solving community issues through intergenerational collaboration

Addressing community issues through collaboration between young people and their elders is the aim of a new Ypsilanti-based project called the Intergenerational Community Solutions Institute. The initiative is a collaboration among Engage@EMU, the Ypsilanti Senior Center, and national nonprofit Generations United.

Formation of the institute will take place in two phases. The first phase is happening now, with multiple opportunities for community members to get more information and provide feedback on the direction of the institute. During the second phase in May, selected organizations or individuals will receive funding to design and then pilot a project that proposes a solution to a community problem. 

Jessica Alexander, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) professor and director of academic engagement programs for Engage@EMU, calls the May phase "a comprehensive design and implementation institute."

Alexander says that Engage@EMU has already hosted intergenerational programming to address social isolation, like the HomeBound podcast and the Digital Connecting Corps program held weekly at the Ypsilanti Senior Center.

Alexander says the proposed solutions don't have to be just limited to social isolation, however. They could address food access, transportation, or other issues. The only requirement is that the solution involves an "intergenerational lens."

"What we're going to do in the first phase is have the community identify what they think some of the challenges are that impact multiple generations," Alexander says. "I have found that utilizing an intergenerational lens to address social challenges is illuminating. And it couldn't be more timely, since older and younger adults are experiencing a lot of the same things [in regard to social isolation] regardless of generation."

A $60,000 grant from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund will allow the institute to offer seed money to participants so they can pilot solutions to the problems they've identified.

"Older adults in our community have a lot to offer, not just educationally, but as collaborators. And young people can offer the expertise they have," Alexander says. "The theory is that if you end up putting people of different 'bookends' of life together, they will hold up the rest of the world. There's such a great sense of hope and possibility."

The next opportunity to participate in an information session about the project is Jan. 27. Anyone interested can fill out a participation form here. Additional questions can be sent to emu_engage@emich.edu.

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photo courtesy of Engage@EMU.
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