Changes in Engagement for Adults with Dementia: Effects of an Intergenerational Program


  • Megan C. Janke East Carolina University
  • Alysha Walter



Alzheimer’s disease, leisure, recreational therapy, therapeutic recreation


Finding ways to engage adults living with dementia in meaningful and social activities as well as elicit positive emotions and behaviors is important. Intergenerational programs (IGPs) involving young children have been shown to benefit the physical, emotional, and social health of older adults, including those living with dementia, and are often positively received by this population. This study examined how involvement in an IGP was associated with the way that individuals living with dementia engaged and the behaviors that they exhibited during the activities. Fourteen older adults living in a shared-site long term care facility participated in an onsite IGP. Their interactions were recorded over a five-day period immediately prior to the children’s arrival and throughout the duration of the program; adults’ engagement and behaviors were coded using the Menorah Park Engagement Scale (MPES). Findings indicated that there were significant changes in engagement type and the behaviors exhibited by these adults during the IGPs. Constructive engagement significantly increased while non-engagement and other engagement were significantly reduced when the children were present. Greater displays of pleasure and helping behaviors were also exhibited during the IGPs. These findings have implications for recreational therapy practice in long-term care settings and support the use of IGPs with adults living with dementia as a nonpharmacological intervention to improve social engagement in this population.