Bridging the Generation Gap with LaCrosse Generations

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the 7 Rivers Region (BBBS) are starting a new mentoring initiative, LaCrosse Generations. (Yes LaCrosse is meant to be spelt that way!) It is an intergenerational mentoring program aiming to build a connection “across” the generations to bridge the age gap within the La Crosse community. In our system, we currently have approximately 125 children in the La Crosse area that are patiently waiting to be matched with a Big. In order to meet these needs, BBBS is looking to reach the growing population of adults over the age of 50, it’s almost one third of the La Crosse population, to serve as a mentor to a child facing adversity. In addition, these matches will practice intergenerational civic engagement by regularly visiting with residents of assisted living facilities.

Through intergenerational mentoring programs, the young and the young at heart can share their knowledge, experience, and talents while supporting each other in relationships beneficial to both the individuals and the community. These programs strengthen the bond between Bigs and Littles through the development of social skills that support coping, finding new interests, and just having someone or something to care about.

There have been numerous research studies that have demonstrated the different kinds of benefits for mentors relating to health, life satisfaction and involvement. According to research conducted by other Big Brother Big Sisters agencies, older adults who participate in a mentoring program have reported a higher rating in life satisfaction in areas such as enthusiasm, fortitude, and positive self-concept.  With the knowledge and experience gained over the years, Bigs can give their Littles positive insight and a different perspective.

Intergenerational programs equally benefits individuals outside of the match. It has been found that it encourages parental involvement in that match as the mentor is looked at in more of a “grandparent” role rather than a role that is in direct competition with the parent. These programs increase resilience for Bigs and Littles as a result of the development of social skills that support coping, the establishment of new interests and having someone or something to care about. Through LaCrosse Generations, matches will also get the opportunity to visit and spend time with residents in assisted living facilities.

For the child, it has been proven that children who meet regularly with their Big are 52% less likely to skip school, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol, 52% less likely to skip school, 46% less likely to begin illegal drug use, and are less likely to hit someone. Not only that but 83% of children felt a growth in self-confidence with the help of a supportive Big.

But that’s just a snippet of what an individual can gain from a mentorship. We hope that through this program individuals can realize the great things they can share, whether it be a favorite hobby, a new skill, or something as simple as a listening ear to a child who needs someone to hear them. Even a child can teach an adult a thing or two. We also hope that through LaCrosse Generations, we can build positive and sustainable relationships “across the generations”.