They’re in their 20s and 30s, and they’re interested in bridging the generation gap. Generation Appreciation Philadelphia (GAP) was formed this past winter, when a group of young professionals from the aging network came together to support each other professionally and engage their peers in fostering intergenerational connections.

“In many ways, it came about because there is a need to promote aging as a viable, exciting field for young professionals,” said Planner Kate Clark, who founded the group.

In just a few short months, GAP has evolved into an alliance of individuals and organizations whose mission is to encourage young Philadelphians to connect with older adults in their personal and professional lives. The group brings together generations through existing volunteer and networking opportunities.

Members include professionals from the aging network and other agencies, including the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Enterprise CDC, PCA, Benefits Data Trust, Center in the Park, the West Oak Lane Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) and the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The group will also be enlisting GAP Mentors, professionals and elders who will consult the Steering Committee on matters related to events and projects.

In the Planning and Development Department, Kate works on developing policy agendas and programs to promote an age-friendly Philadelphia. Previously she worked for the City of Syracuse where she initiated, developed, and administered the City’s first public art program. “My professional background is not in aging, however, the idea for GAP was inspired by my experience with a volunteer organization that promoted civic engagement among young professionals in order to build community pride and responsibility,” said Kate.

She feels that GAP will also help further PCA’s mission by introducing the needs of older adults to professionals outside of the health care field, such as urban planners, business owners, and artists. “Aging spans every single profession, and because of that, young professionals need to understand the relevance of the way older people think, and the wisdom that they possess. Additionally, by bringing generations together on a personal level, GAP also hopes to facilitate neighborhood cohesion,” said Kate.

GAP sponsors free events and professional development opportunities. The group’s first event in May brought young professionals together with senior artists at PCA’s Seniors Celebrate the Arts reception at Rembrandt’s restaurant in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood.

In June, GAP sponsored a brown-bag lunch discussion at the United Way on “Social Capital: What It Is and Why It Matters for Creating an Age-Friendly Philadelphia.” Allen Glicksman, PCA’s director of Research and Evaluation, led the group discussion.
According to Allen, research shows that connection to the community or ‘social capital’ can have a profound effect on health and well-being. Kate said social capital is central to GAP’s mission.

GAP invites professionals from all fields to attend a free brown bag lunch on the topic of ‘Looking at Neighborhoods through an Intergenerational Lens’ on Thursday, August 13 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Contact Kate at x5072 to RSVP.

For more information about Generation Appreciation Philadelphia, including event announcements and volunteer opportunities: visit www.genphilly.org or follow GAP on Facebook >>

Source: Philadelphia Corporation for Aging Employee Network, 07/29/09

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