UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In collaboration with Penn State Extension and organizations and agencies throughout the state working to create and sustain meaningful connections across generations, Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences will hold the “Pennsylvania Intergenerational Conference: Intergenerational Approaches for Living, Learning and Growing in Pennsylvania,” July 5-7 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center in State College.
The conference is designed for staff members, administrators, educators, advocates, volunteers, students and others who are interested in learning more about intergenerational programs and practices in diverse settings.
The first of its kind in the state, this 2 1/2-day conference will be a major event, noted organizer Matt Kaplan, professor of intergenerational programs and aging in the college’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education.
It will include hands-on learning and activities, workshops, panel presentations, posters and exhibits, group activities, interest group meetings, pre-conference site visits to innovative intergenerational programs and places taking root in central Pennsylvania, and more.
This event will showcase innovative, impactful, intergenerational initiatives across the state and beyond, according to Kaplan. Conference tracks include education and lifelong learning; health and wellness; arts, culture and recreation; built and natural environments; grandfamilies and kinship care families; and the multigenerational workforce.
One of the highlighted initiatives in the grandfamilies track is the Relatives as Parents extension program. Darlene Sansone, food, families and health extension educator, explained that sometimes grandparents step in to raise children when biological parents struggle due to substance abuse, incarceration or illness.
“We saw a need for programming and resources for those folks,” Sansone said. “Grandparents sometimes get a knock on the door or a phone call from children and youth services saying, ‘We have your grandkids — do you want them? Or we’ll put them in foster care.’”
Extension educators hold monthly kinship family forums on topics such as effective communication, financial hardship and legal concerns. Without legal guardianship, grandparents often face difficulties enrolling children in school or taking them to the doctor, Sansone said.
Extension educators also work with colleagues to conduct regional one- to two-day kinship family retreats to help grandfamilies address communication and relationship issues through educational and recreational activities in camp-like settings. At the conference, a panel will discuss the retreats and other ways to support kinship families.
Conference participants also can learn about innovative intergenerational shared sites in Pennsylvania, such as the campus for the proposed Snyder County Intergenerational Community Life Center.
Neal Fogle, economic and community development extension educator, helped the Regional Engagement Center in Selinsgrove create a strategic plan. This involved helping to set a vision, parameters and partnerships to support the expansion of the center’s intergenerational initiatives, including plans for the envisioned intergenerational facility in Snyder County.
“Communities are more than a geographic place where people live,” Fogle said. “To be a true community, opportunities for common ties and social interaction need to be present and practiced. To create and maintain these opportunities, residents and leaders need to consider the needs of, as well as the contributions from, people of all ages.”
Conference speakers will include Brent Hales, associate dean of the college and director of Penn State Extension; Robert Torres, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging; Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United; Margaret Sullivan, principal of Margaret Sullivan Studio; and Roberta Phillips, CEO of Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.
Participants who attend all conference sessions and activities can earn up to 1.5 continuing education units.
An early bird registration fee of $100 is available through March 15. After March 15, the registration fee will increase to $125. Undergraduate and graduate students may register for a discounted fee of $50. The registration fee covers dinner July 5 as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner July 6.
Other costs include $20 for the pre-conference tour and $25 for a full-day session July 7 titled “Intergenerational Placemaking and Placekeeping.” These fees cover additional meals.
If finances are a consideration, Kaplan said that reduced registration fees are available, particularly for presenters or participants traveling from afar. The deadline for conference presentation proposals is March 15.
More information about the conference is available at https://cvent.me/5xAyNg.
–Alexandra McLaughlin, Penn State University