Background: The ageing population is growing and the dependency ratio is increasing. It is vital to promote healthy ageing of older people to relieve pressure on society. The aim of this study is to explore the effects of community-based intergenerational programmes on older adults’ physical health in terms of their general self-rated health, level of physical activity and physical functioning.
Methods: A rapid literature review was performed to identify studies of intergenerational programmes for community-dwelling older adults. The search included peer-reviewed articles published in English from 1986 to 2014 with no country restriction. However, interventions for older people with dementia, as well as for anyone living in residential care were excluded. Supplementary searches were performed and a narrative synthesis was conducted.
Results: Seven studies met these inclusion criteria. Intergenerational activities, including volunteering and reminiscence components, have been associated with an overall positive trend in physical health outcomes. Individuals reported having better health, as well as decreased body aches and pain. In addition, participants reported a feeling of being “more active”, with improved energy consumption, increasing the numbers of streets walked and stairs climbed. For physical functioning, older volunteers tended to show less decline in hand grip strength but inconsistent results for walking speed.
Conclusion: More studies with longer time horizons and sufficient statistical power are required to determine the optimal level of participation and to address potential barriers to maximising the benefits of intergenerational programmes for socially marginalised groups. More formal evaluations of the costs and benefits of programmes are needed, taking account of broader societal benefits to inform practice and policy for active ageing.