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The Gerontologist 42:321-333 (2002)
© 2002 The Gerontological Society of America

Intergenerational Partnerships in Adult Day Centers

Importance of Age-Appropriate Environments and Behaviors

Sonia Miner Salari, PhDa

a Department of Family & Consumer Studies, University of Utah, Salt Lake City

Correspondence: Sonia Miner Salari, PhD, Department of Family & Consumer Studies, University of Utah, 225 South 1400 East, 228 AEB, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. E-mail: sonia.salari{at}

Decision Editor: Laurence G. Branch, PhD

Purpose: This research identified the potential for infantilization of clients in centers that offer an occasional program of combined adult and child day care. Design and Methods: The study used a comparative ethnographic approach, which analyzed observation and interview data collected from two adult day centers that offered intergenerational activities. Special attention was paid to the environment, behaviors, and clients' interaction patterns. Results: The adult day center cultures varied widely in age appropriateness, opportunities for autonomy, privacy regulation, choice, and adult interaction, especially as children were introduced into the setting. Infantilization occurred in the intergenerational program when the adults and children were treated as status equals, and the activities and environments were only child oriented. Older persons perceived a need for an "escape option" if contact with children was overstimulating or age inappropriate. Positive intergenerational experiences involved adults in a mentoring role, voluntary participation, and client-initiated contact with children. Implications: This study explores the influence of intergenerational programming in adult day centers, and bridges the gap between theory and practice with implications for other aging services.

Key Words: Infantilization • Aging services • Intergenerational programs

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Copyright © 2002 by The Gerontological Society of America.