About Us

Welcome to Grand Connections - An intergenerational mentoring program

The Grand Connections Program

About Grand Connections

The Grand Connections program is an interdisciplinary community engagement initiative that focuses on fostering interactions and understanding among different generations. Developed in the summer of 2021 by partnering with AARP, it seeks to engage older adult volunteers from the community with GVSU students to build meaningful relationships and share life experiences and skills through meaningful activities such as mentoring.

For older adults, interacting with students can offer a window for them to see closely what future generations are going through and offer them an opportunity to share their knowledge and wisdom accumulated over a lifetime. For students, to be able to tap into this wealth of knowledge and wisdom will help them deal with life challenges and be better prepared for their lives ahead.

Research shows that positive, individualized, and collaborative interactions contribute to the health and psychological well-being of older adults and to reducing the negative attitudes toward aging among young adults (Caspar, et al., 2019; Burnes et al., 2019; Roodin, Brown, & Shedlock, 2013; Levy, 2018). Such relationships also help build a more inclusive society (https://extranet.who.int/agefriendlyworld/). However, making connections across generations can be difficult, despite the great benefits of such intergenerational relationships to all of those involved. The Grand Connections program strives to provide a platform to bridge the generational gaps and demonstrate that intergenerational integration is possible and fun and reinvigorating for everyone involved.

How Can You Get Involved

Activities Involved

The main goal of Grand Connections is to connect older adults from our communities to students at GVSU. The following things create opportunities to make it happen. You can choose any of these activities to participate. Of course, you do not need to do all of them to be part of the program. You can choose how much you want to get involved. We will survey your interests on the Registration Form and suggest things that may fit to your interests. 

  1. To be part of a story circle
  2. To be a mentor for a student 
  3. To join SAGE activities (Student club - Students for Aging and Gerontology Enrichment

You can share your stories

Story Circle

Intergenerational Story Circles is an initiative brought to you as a new chance for interaction between older and younger adults. It is being offered in memory of John R. Ziemann, an AARP volunteer who helped conceive the Grand Connections Program.

John was a great believer in connections among all people. He often engaged new people he met by asking them, ”What’s your story”? He also let others get to know him by sharing his own life stories. Because of John’s love of story and because storytelling is one of the most important paths to human understanding, we hope to begin this new project by hosting Intergenerational Story Circles that let older and younger adults get to know each other in an informal and nonthreatening setting.

Eventually, we hope these groups will collaborate in finding new and creative ways to grow the Grand Connections and SAGE programs. But groups are made up of people, so we are seeking young and older adults who want to be involved in this fun, interactive experience. The timing and makeup of the circles will depend on our response from those who would like to be included.

Please fill out this interest form and we will get back to you with further details. We need a balance of older and younger people, so everyone is encouraged to participate in it.

Interest form


The circle is a universal symbol with extensive meaning. In many cultures, it is a symbol of unity. When people want to come together and support one another, they form a circle. That way, everybody is visible to everybody else, meaning they can communicate openly and extend a sense of togetherness. Circles engender a feeling of belonging, help people be more empathetic, build trust, encourage engagement, and help people feel valued and supported. In Circles, people of diverse backgrounds, and ages can come together to share stories, build community and solve problems.


Stories build connections. Stories can create a bond between the teller and the receiver; however, the strongest connections are forged by personal, first-person stories. Story is a more gracious way of exploring differences of opinion than argument. Stories don’t tell people what to do, but can powerfully influence what they think about. They allow us to walk in someone else’s shoes. To listen to another person’s story, is to vicariously share their point of view. Telling stories also allows disparate members of a group to even the playing field and share leadership.

You can be a mentor

Members from the Grand Connections program will be paired (e.g., 1:1 or 1:2) with students who are taking an aging-related course to work on an intergenerational co-mentoring project. Each pair can be creative in figuring out to what to teach to the other, what activities they would like to engage, or what topics they would like to discuss. The match will be done by the instructor based on a survey of students and older adults’ interests. You only have to "meet" with the student three times across the course of a semester. Zoom meetings, phone calls, emails, or in-person meetings - You decide!

In previous semesters, the student and older adult pairs carried out a wide range of interesting activities. These included learning a family recipe to sharing a tech-free day together. The experiences from both sides were overwhelmingly positive. All expressed appreciation for getting to know someone from another generation. 

To be a mentor

You can socialize with students

To be part of SAGE

SAGE (Students for Aging and Gerontology Enrichment) is a student club developed to enhance intergenerational connections. The club has organized various fun activities to meet older adults and to learn from them. Here are some of the things do. Upcoming SAGE activities will be announced here and emailed to Grand Connections members. Please feel free to join them. 

Club get togethers: SAGE club meets monthly. They are fun get-togethers. There are always pizzas, yummy treats, lots of laughters, and amazing stories that stay with you and put smiles on your face whenever they come to your mind. These meetings have been joined by members from the Grand Connections and truly great connections have been built between the students and older adults. 

Seasonal Outing and Piano Concerts: SAGE organized an apple picking with older adults last fall. Just before last Thanksgiving, SAGE brought a piano concert to Clark Retirement Home. The concert was so well-received that they went back again and had a second piano concert just after the new year. There were almost 60 people there for each of the concert!!

SAGE is constantly brain-storming new activities to engage students and older adults. So please stay tuned!!

If you are interested, please click on the button on the left and fill out the sign up form.  We will follow up with you about the next steps of getting involved in the Grand Connections program.

We Look Forward to Seeing You

Let’s work together to create meaningful and long-lasting intergenerational relationships so older adults can offer younger adults life lessons learned through experience, and young adults can offer older adults renewed energy and a stronger desire to make the world better for generations to come.

2 hands being held

Page last modified February 14, 2024