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Is Virtual Communication Possible in Intergenerational Programs? The SIMUL Project

Department of Didactic and Educational Investigation, University of La Laguna, 38200 San Cristobal de La Laguna, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(4), 199;
Received: 13 December 2022 / Revised: 9 March 2023 / Accepted: 21 March 2023 / Published: 28 March 2023


Intergenerational relationships are becoming increasingly rare. Thus, intergenerational programs are a strategy to establish relationships between generations. This article describes the socio-educational experience of the third edition of the SIMUL Intergenerational Project of the Education Service of the Cabildo Insular de Tenerife and the University of La Laguna, developed virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. The following questions arise: Can an intergenerational project be developed through virtual meetings? What are the socio-educational experiences gained during the Intergenerational Project (academic year 2020–2021) by young and older participants? The evaluation of the application and development of the project showed high participant satisfaction; however, communication barriers derived from the virtual modality were detected. It could be concluded that while face-to-face modality is more effective for the development of the experience, the virtual approach is only interesting when certain requirements and strategies for the virtualization of intergenerational meetings are met. For these types of programs to be successful from a virtual approach, it is essential to plan spaces for informal encounters that enable knowledge and exchange as a basis for the establishment of intergenerational relationships. A requirement in these virtual meetings is that each participant has his or her own device to participate in these meetings.

1. Introduction

The increase in life expectancy and the aging of the population are two outstanding social changes of the 21st century. These facts imply an important coincidence of generations, without implying interaction or collaboration; in fact, it increases segregation between them (Sánchez et al. 2007; Pérez-Jorge et al. 2016). The COVID-19 pandemic forced the adaptation of the project to a virtual modality during the 2020–2021 academic year, which was an added challenge.
The study dimensions are focused on determining what type of digital competencies the participants should have, how communication should be in these virtual environments, the frequency of interactions, and assessing to what extent videoconferencing tools can substitute or replace face-to-face meetings. Identifying the requirements for this type of virtual meeting would facilitate the generalization of this type of format in intergenerational programs.
The experience carried out in three of the five schools participating in the edition (centers 2, 4, and 6 in Table 1) is presented. Specifically, virtual program development is described, and the possibility of establishing virtual intergenerational relationships and their implications are analyzed.

2. Description and State-of-the-Art

2.1. Intergenerational Programs: Towards Intergenerational Education

Intergenerational programs aim to establish exchange relationships between people from different generations through their participation in activities aimed at achieving a beneficial outcome (Díaz et al. 2020; Kirsnan et al. 2022). These are a useful tool to favor understanding and respect between generations (Almeida et al. 2009; Cambero and Baigorri 2019; Andreoletti and Howard 2018; Martins et al. 2019). Thus, from these programs, it is possible to contribute to reducing the discrimination suffered by older adults (“ageism”). In this sense, education is presented as the best way to break negative stereotypes and ageism (Gutiérrez-Moret and Mayordomo-Rodríguez 2019), because an appropriate intervention from educational centers can modify ideas regarding aging from an early age.
Following J. García (2003) and A. García (2005a), intergenerational education (IE), to be considered as such, must contemplate a series of characteristics. There should be an intercultural dialogue as there is an exchange of cultures between young and old; participation should be voluntary, where people have the possibility of agreeing on goals to promote a shared motivation. This relationship is established from a peer-to-peer approach that generates gratification with the project by sharing experiences and fostering communication.
The SIMUL project differs from other intergenerational programs in that it does not expect that older adults help younger people, or vice versa, but seeks that both age groups cooperate and collaborate together in the development of a common project; it also includes a training proposal from a formal learning environment, as well as a proposal for non-formal or non-regulated learning, which involves a greater number of sessions or hours than other programs (González-Afonso et al. 2022).

2.2. Communication in Intergenerational Programs

The concept of “communication” implies a term of relationship (Muñoz 2003), to the extent that communication and relationship are two inseparable processes. Thus, Santiago (2005) defines communication as a process of exchange of information, feelings, or thoughts between two or more people using a common code. This author also points out that communication in general is a complex process that is hindered by various elements (noise, distractions, different languages, etc.). More specifically, intergenerational communication is affected by a series of barriers, as pointed out by Muñoz (2003):
  • Stereotypes about the different stages of life cause an attitude against the communicative process between different generations. Programs aimed at eliminating or decreasing ageism focus on modifying the view of young people towards older adults, but there are also many existing stereotypes about youth (J. García 2005b; Carretero 2018; Lee et al. 2020). These stereotypes towards young people have been less studied and need to be addressed. Therefore, ageism should be understood in a broad sense, referring to any stereotype associated with age, towards either young or older adults.
  • Differences in the lexicon may be present, because the different generations use a particular vocabulary of their own.
  • Values may differ, because each generation forms a different cultural group. The historical and vital moments experienced determine the attitudes and values acquired by people.
  • The narcissistic idea by which each generation considers that its conception of the world is the only adequate and fair one hinders intergenerational education, which must be based on generational respect; no generation is superior to another.
  • In today’s society, there is a lack of spaces and times where different generations can meet and communicate (Santiago 2005).
  • Physical wear and tear, referring to the deterioration in sensory systems that typically arises with age, includes hearing loss, slowing of motor response and increased reaction time in activities, comprehension, and production, which can significantly affect the communicative process.
Taking into account these difficulties of communication in intergenerational relationships, it is necessary to encourage meetings and conversations under appropriate conditions. In addition, there are the difficulties inherent in online communication, which, as Morrison-Smith and Ruiz (2020) point out, generate five challenges to be taken into account: geographical distance, time distance, perceived distance, dispersed team configuration, and diversity of workers. In this sense, the informal situations that occur when face-to-face activities are carried out are particularly important and should take into consideration the online format. Training the facilitators of these virtual meetings in this area will improve the development of their professional activity for the development of intergenerational programs (Restubog et al. 2020).
In an exploratory study on the attitude of older people towards the use of information and communication technologies in Spain (Cruz-Díaz et al. 2015), it was highlighted that despite the improved conditions of Internet access, there are still older people who are not willing to use ICTs as a new way to communicate and socialize. This coincides with the study conducted by Viñarás-Abad et al. (2017), who found differences in ICT use by age. The largest differences between young and older people were observed when it came to communication activities such as social networks or video calls. The proportion of Internet users who participated in the use of social networks was 89% in the case of young people aged 16 to 24 years, compared to 27% in the case of older people (aged 55 to 74 years). The percentage of users who made video calls through Internet-based applications was 45% for the 16–24 age group, compared to 25% for the 55–74 age group. These low percentages of use of ICT tools for communication in the case of the older adults were reflected in a study conducted by the Vodafone Spain Foundation. Older people find it difficult to use ICTs for communication and socialization tasks and rate them negatively (Jiménez 2011).
However, when they participate in training programs on the use of ICTs and their application in communication, attitudes towards technology and communication devices improve, and they perceive that they are satisfactorily included in the various aspects of their daily lives (work, hobbies, education, and social networks) (Bell et al. 2013; Marx et al. 2005). In this way, they manage to establish four types of benefits: informational, communicative, transactional, and leisure opportunities (Llorente et al. 2015). To achieve these benefits, as Bunbury et al. (2022) have indicated, it is important to adapt digital technologies to the older adults and not the other way around. ICTs must be adapted to be used by any person beyond any limitation, to make their use more intuitive and visual.

2.3. Virtual Education

The health crisis situation caused by COVID-19 has made it necessary to accelerate the transformation of traditional educational systems and generate distance learning alternatives (Pérez-Jorge et al. 2020a). Thus, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) make it possible to create a “third environment”, understood as an electronic social space (Rodríguez 2017).
Regarding intergenerational programs, there has been an increased interest in the use of technology to promote contact between generations (Martínez et al. 2015). Although people over 65 usually have more difficulties in accessing ICTs, when these obstacles are overcome, they tend to be receptive to their use and, in general, to show a more positive attitude towards new technologies in general (Morrison-Smith and Ruiz 2020). This is why ICTs can be a particularly useful tool to foster contact between generations (Martínez et al. 2015).
To make good use of these virtual spaces, it is essential that all the people involved have the necessary skills and competences for teaching and learning in cyberspace (Pérez-Jorge et al. 2020b; Tejedor et al. 2020). In addition, various aspects involved in the formation of relationships and communication between people must be taken into account. This communication between participants is an important element to generate satisfaction with virtual environments (Tejedor et al. 2020; Emelyanova and Voronina 2014). Moreover, this interaction must be frequent in order to achieve knowledge sharing and mutual respect (Margalina et al. 2014).
Likewise, people become emotionally involved in spaces that allow social processes and feel more comfortable in those that remind them more of face-to-face activities (González and Hernández 2008).
In this line, videoconferencing tools are presented as an ideal option for the creation of closer virtual spaces, because they allow interlocutors to see each other while dialoguing and generate an environment similar to that of a face-to-face conversation (León et al. 2018; Pérez-Jorge et al. 2018; Gómez-García et al. 2021). Isla Montes and Molina (2001) raised a series of considerations when using videoconferencing in educational spaces, related both to the physical space (size of the classroom, lighting, acoustics, arrangement of the cameras, etc.) and to the people involved. These include the number of participants, the training of the person in charge of directing the process, the availability of adequate means, and the ability to maintain control of the classroom, as well as other elements related to the people involved, such as ICT training, motivation, the conception of the group and the feeling of belonging, and their degree of participation, among others. Current studies show the importance of addressing emotional management for virtual encounters and jobs (Holtz et al. 2020).

3. Objective

This article describes the socio-educational experience carried out in the third edition of the SIMUL Intergenerational Project (academic year 2020–2021), in which the meeting between young and old took place virtually. Some questions arise: In a virtual era such as the present one, is it possible to develop an intergenerational project through virtual meetings?

4. Context and Participants

The third edition presented here was in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has caused, on the one hand, a decrease in social relationships, especially intergenerational ones (Iglesias et al. 2020) and, on the other hand, the appearance, reappearance, or accentuation of stereotypes associated with both old age and youth (Bravo-Segal and Villar 2020; Ayalon 2020). In this social context, the role of the school as a training space to promote intergenerational education is particularly important.
The most notable impact of this context has been the need to introduce ICTs—specifically, videoconferencing—as one of the resources used both in the development of the theoretical–practical sessions and in the intergenerational meeting. The lack of adequate means for the implementation of these technologies, together with the lack of experience in their use, have been the main barriers in the development of the project. In this context of virtuality, the difficulty in establishing fluid and spontaneous communication that leads to the formation of real relationships stands out.
In the 2020–2021 academic year, five centers on the island of Tenerife participated in the project. The data relating to the participants in each of them are shown in Table 1 and Table 2. The usual particularities of each center, added to the exceptional pandemic situation, gave rise to disparate developments. Thus, in some centers, the sessions were carried out completely online, with the monitor dynamizing the sessions virtually and virtual meetings between the group of young people and the older adults (Centers 1 and 3), and in other centers, the monitors could dynamize the sessions in person, but the meeting between generations also had to be carried out through videoconferences (Centers 2, 4, and 5). The conclusions of this paper focus on the experience carried out in Centers 2, 4, and 5, because these are the centers where it was possible to develop a joint project.
The study was conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki; the participants were informed about the use and handling of confidential information and signed their consent to participate in the study. In the case of underage students, the consent form was sent to their families and was returned by the students and kept by the research team.
Table 1. Participants (academic year 2020–2021).
Table 1. Participants (academic year 2020–2021).
CenterEducation LevelNumber of Students (Phase 1)Average Age of Students (Phase 1)Number of Students (Phase 2)Average Age of Students (Phase 2)Number of Older AdultsAverage Age of the Older Adults
31°, 2° y 3E3512.97----
51°, 2° y 3° ESO, 1° Higher education and 1° (HLTC)4816.541613.5366.25
Compulsory education (CE)/Higher-Level Training Cycle (HLTC).
Table 2. Participants in each phase (academic year 2020–2021).
Table 2. Participants in each phase (academic year 2020–2021).
Educational CenterHigh School CourseStudents (Phase 1)Students (Phase 2)Older Adults
31°, 2° y 3° 35--
51°, 2° y 3°, 1FGS *48163
* The students of the Higher-Level Training Cycle (HLTC) only participated in Phase 1.

Phases of Development

Phase 1, training, was carried out with groups of young people and older adults separately, without establishing contact between them, with the intention of preparing them for their subsequent meeting and their collaboration in a common project. To this end, activities were developed in three blocks: ageist stereotypes, communication, and project development. This phase lasted 20 h during school hours in the case of adolescents and between 4 and 10 h in both morning and afternoon hours in the case of the older adults. The proportion of hours dedicated to the block of stereotypes stands out, because dealing with ageism is necessary to break this important barrier in intergenerational communication, as indicated by the theory on this issue. Thus, working on ageism from the first sessions helps to establish the basis for barrier-free intergenerational communication. The work on stereotypes also aims to promote a better understanding of the other generation, reducing the narcissistic idea and encouraging participants to establish relationships based on equality, not imposing the beliefs or values of one generation on the other.
In Phase 2 of project development, the so-called “motor group” was generated, formed by the union of young and old people, with the intention of collaborating in the creation of a common project based on the principles of Service-learning (S-L). The meeting between generations could be established in all the centers, except Center 3, but only in Centers 2, 4, and 5 was it possible to elaborate a joint project (only in these three centers was the second phase carried out). Due to the safety and hygiene measures derived from the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting between both groups was virtual, connecting by videoconference through the Google Meet tool with the help of the monitors, who were with both the older adults and the young people, acting as facilitators and dynamizers of the meeting. Therefore, each group remained physically separated, forming two distinct groups in each of the centers; the older adult met with each other, as did the young people. In addition, the participants had to keep their masks on in order to respect the safety and hygiene measures required by COVID-19, which was an extra barrier to communication and prevented them from being able to see each other’s faces properly.
The work of the monitors was fundamental for the development of the experience. They were in charge of the following:
Developing and energizing the sessions;
Establishing a positive atmosphere, favoring the establishment of relationships;
Attending and listening to people;
Adapting the activities (with the support and advice of the “writing and evaluation” team);
Observing and reporting on the development of the sessions;
Maintaining fluid communication with the teachers accompanying the group;
Filling in the evaluation and registration forms of the weekly activities.
Likewise, virtuality implied the appearance of technical difficulties that affected the development of the sessions and meant that monitors had to take greater control over them. These technical difficulties included problems with Internet connection, image quality, and sound. These difficulties are directly related to one of the most relevant barriers to intergenerational communication: physical wear and tear. Thus, in addition to the health problems that the participants could present (Pérez-Jorge et al. 2021), there were also vision and hearing difficulties, which proved to be a major barrier to communication.
To these problems were added other difficulties derived from the large number of participants in both groups and the impossibility of establishing informal contacts. This made it impossible to establish one-to-one contact, forcing the monitors to act as intermediaries, communicating to each other the conclusions of the group in their charge. In other words, the person in charge of the young people’s group communicated to the older adults group what was happening in their group, and vice versa. This, in turn, meant that there were no opportunities for informal interaction, making it difficult for young and old to really get to know each other and establish relationships of equality.
In this phase, the number of sessions depended on the needs of the group, with about six sessions lasting approximately one and a half hours in the afternoon (Centers 4 and 5; Center 2 continued in the morning). A typical session began with a virtual meeting between the two groups and a recapitulation of the previous session. Then, the driving group planned different aspects related to the project they were carrying out. The session ended by sharing the conclusions of the session and the pending tasks for the next meeting. The ultimate goal of these sessions was to establish intergenerational relationships through the collaboration established between the two groups.
Finally, in Phase 3 of the implementation and dissemination of the project, as its name indicates, the planned project was developed jointly, maintaining this contact between young and old through virtual meetings. In addition, the project was presented to the community through the educational center (Table 3 and Table 4). In this presentation, it was possible to establish face-to-face contact between the two groups, but this was short, and not all the older adults participated (only those with a complete COVID-19 vaccination schedule and who voluntarily decided to attend the educational center attended). In general, fewer older adults participated in this phase than in the previous ones, and its duration was reduced (half a school day in the morning).
Of the five participating centers, three developed an S-L project. One of the projects consisted of collecting data and generating discussions around two topics of interest, sexuality and immigration, which was called Project NINI: “We Import, We Integrate”. The second was the VEMA Project: “The link between adults and adolescents”, where adults and young people elaborated materials on what differentiates and unites them. This was shared with different groups in their city. The last center organized a day to share and exchange experiences between generations and change the stereotypes of the population of their city, called “Chatting with friends”.

5. Evaluation

The evaluation of the project in the 2020–2021 academic year was both procedural and final. The procedural evaluation consisted of observations of the sessions. These observations were collected through a questionnaire completed by the monitors at the end of each session, through observation of the recorded sessions, and through the opinions and reflections expressed in the periodic meetings of the SIMUL team.
On the other hand, the final evaluation was carried out by means of two instruments: an evaluation questionnaire, filled in by the participants of this edition in its last session (see Appendix A), and a semi-structured interview carried out with the monitors (see Appendix B, Table A1). The evaluation questionnaire is made up of four blocks, referring to different aspects of the development of the project: activities, participation, learning, and other open questions. The semi-structured interview consists of eight categories on the development of the project and on organizational issues, adequacy of activities, objectives, and materials used.

6. Results

The results show a high level of satisfaction with the project. The participants valued positively the intergenerational relationships established and considered that their view of the other generation had improved. This idea was reinforced by the decrease in ageist stereotypes. This is confirmed in the answers to the open questions of the questionnaire by the participants, who affirm that: “It has given me different ways of communicating with people, knowledge about what is ageism and opened me to meet older people” or “SIMUL has given me a new vision of the older adults, to get to know them and to realize that we are not so different”. However, the objectives related to communication and project development skills were achieved to a lesser extent.
Thus, the main barrier to communication between generations was the difficulties derived from the online format, this was reflected in the evaluations of the participants (“They should improve the means of communication such as video calls since the sound and quality of the video was often not optimal”) and of the SIMUL monitors (“Fundamentally, connection problems, with the link to the connection in Meet (they started late many times) and problems with the video and audio, especially the audio”). The use of this virtual space implied the presence of restrictions, because it was the monitors who directed the use of the ICT tools, acting as intermediaries. Although in the training phase it was possible to break down stereotypes and facilitate understanding and respect for the values of the other generation, this learning could not be extended as intended to Phase 2, given the limited contact between generations. Dialogue occurred primarily within the age groups themselves. However, there was also a dialogue between generations, which took place via the monitors.
Thus, the meetings conducted via videoconference were very directed, i.e., they hindered spontaneity and the establishment of informal relationships among the participants.
The participants called for these meetings to be more flexible, including an informal space for interaction (“Establish contact with the elderly, talk to them and the topic should not be so narrowly defined”). Thus, the monitors proposed: “I would include sessions in which they could communicate openly, not only about ageist stereotypes but also about their concerns”.
In this sense, the participants called for greater contact between generations (“The classes, we should do all the sessions together with the older people in person”) and for this to take place as early as possible in the process (“to be able to talk to older people earlier”). In line with this, the aspect to improve was to have a more face-to-face contact (“not so many video call classes”; “Considering that during this course the activities could not be fully carried out due to limitations, I would like that next year the young people could interact directly with the elderly and not through a screen”). In line with this, the monitors also pointed out: “Phase 2 should be face-to-face”.
Likewise, the monitors expressed the need to address the affective aspects required by this type of programs, because with virtuality this affective part is lost (“It is very difficult to make an educational and personal growth project without being pre-face-to-face. SIMUL is an integral project and without being face-to-face you cannot connect with the participants”; “The difficulties (establishment of the affective bond between monitor and group, mainly, the difficulties to dynamize the group, to adapt to the particular circumstances of each group, and of each day) disappear if the difficulties of communication disappear due to the online format”).

7. Discussion

The SIMUL Project differs from other intergenerational programs in that young people do not provide a service to the elderly, or vice versa, but rather an intergenerational work team is created for the development of a shared project (González-Afonso et al. 2022). Hence the importance of communication, generating spaces for exchange and trust in which a strong bond of permanence and commitment to the group and the project is created.
However, the results show that the relationships established were limited to the development of the common S-L project, and although there was a motivation to establish links to get to know each other and interact, the videoconference format between the older and younger groups did not facilitate this. The research group found that the meetings between generations were developed, but the barrier of generational distance was not broken down, maintaining two different groups—one of young people and the other of older people—who had contact with each other but did not manage to form a single “motor group” (Delgado-Castro et al. 2022). In this sense, the challenges posed by Morrison-Smith and Ruiz (2020) are proven, where addressing geographical and emotional distance is a fundamental aspect of the success of this type of program. This emotional contact is promoted through informal meetings and the possibility of exchanging interests among participants. In socio-educational projects, it is very important to take into account what happens “outside” the project structure. It is in these informal encounters that the links between people are established; in this type of initiative, these links are the driving force for learning. These informal meetings, which are so important for establishing intergenerational links and which arise spontaneously in the presence of others, must be planned in a virtual format.
Therefore, a series of proposals for the improvement for future editions should be noted. Thus, it is proposed to facilitate the creation of informal spaces in which young and old can talk and get to know each other freely. Along the same lines, the participants called for more informal spaces in which to share more personal experiences, interests, and stories. In the study, it was found that the most significant relationships were those within the groups of young or older people, who met in person and had more direct contact (Delgado-Castro et al. 2022).
Likewise, the development of the project has involved an unbalanced number of older adults with respect to the group of young people. The recruitment of older adults is one of the most difficult points of intergenerational projects. Therefore, it is a priority need to design a strategy to locate older adults who want to take part in this type of initiative. Finally, we propose a union between young and old people from Phase 1 of training, because this meeting was the main attraction of the project. We also consider that this type of project should be promoted in the context of face-to-face interaction. Therefore, the experience carried out in the third edition of SIMUL allowed us to verify the importance of face-to-face interactions in this type of socio-educational experiences. Is it possible to develop an intergenerational project through virtual meetings? The experience reported here implies a positioning in favor of face-to-face versus virtuality. However, the current reality forces us to consider the possibility that the meetings should be held virtually. In this case, a series of elements must be taken into account:
  • Time and spaces to establish informal and spontaneous conversations: For this purpose, the creation of different virtual meeting rooms is proposed, a tool available on videoconferencing platforms such as Google Meet. At least three meeting rooms should be created:
    Informal meeting space prior to the sessions: This would consist of a virtual room where people could chat upon arrival, before the beginning of the session;
    Activity room: This could be a single room or several rooms depending on the working subgroups, in which a more formal meeting is established with objectives set to the planning of the S-L project;
    Informal meeting space after the sessions: This would be a fixed link that can be accessed at the end of the session and at any time between sessions to communicate and establish relationships and links with the people in the “motor group”; in this case, the monitor does not need to be present.
  • Establishing virtual contact from person to person, and not from group to group, from their own device.
  • Minimizing the role of the monitor in the dynamization of the session. The role of this professional should not be that of a “communication vehicle”, but rather supervision of the different meeting rooms created and resolution of doubts.
  • All the people involved must know and handle the ICT resources to be used in the virtual meetings. Thus, it may be necessary to train them beforehand.
  • In order to be able to carry it out, it is necessary to have a series of resources, highlighting the following:
    Good Internet connection;
    A device (computer, tablet, etc.) for each participant;
    Suitable and sufficient spaces for the meetings, avoiding possible sound coupling problems and other technical difficulties.
Thus, we consider that ICT resources offer the opportunity to bring together, through virtuality, the spontaneous situations that occur with face-to-face attendance. Efforts should focus on the creation of spaces for informal meetings and on eliminating or reducing the barriers to communication derived from telepresence.

8. Conclusions

However, in order to bring the virtual context closer to the face-to-face one, a great investment of effort and resources is necessary. The tools offered by ICTs can be useful for many issues related or not to education, but they are hardly a substitute for the relationships and links formed through direct interaction. For this reason, it is essential to generate informal meetings, which must be carefully planned virtually, because they are not generated spontaneously. Didactic projects or experiences that seek to achieve their objectives through interpersonal relationships and, therefore, communication, including intergenerational projects such as Project SIMUL, can make use of ICT tools but should do so by prioritizing and promoting direct contact between people. It would be interesting to look to the future and reflect, based on this experience, on the challenges of intergenerational socio-educational projects. The main objective would be to encourage contact between generations by attending and encouraging informal meetings. This implies looking for ICT tools that are easy to use and accessible to all, and that encourage bonding and interaction through these tools. In addition, before starting the intergenerational program, the older adults should be offered training in new technologies to overcome the intergenerational digital divide.

Author Contributions

Each author has made substantial contributions to this work and agrees to be personally accountable for the author’s own contributions and for ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work, even ones in which the author was not personally involved, are appropriately investigated, resolved, and documented in the literature. Conceptualization, M.d.C.E.-M. and A.D.-C.; methodology, D.P.-J. and M.G.-A.; formal analysis, M.G.-A., M.d.C.E.-M., A.D.-C. and D.P.-J.; investigation, M.G.-A., A.D.-C. and D.P.-J.; data curation, D.P.-J.; writing—Original draft preparation, M.G.-A., M.d.C.E.-M., A.D.-C. and D.P.-J.; writing—Review and editing, M.G.-A. and D.P.-J.; visualization, M.G.-A. and D.P-J.; supervision, M.G.-A. and D.P-J. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


Education Area of the Cabildo Insular of Tenerife. Project: The SIMUL Intergenerational Project of the Education Service of the Cabildo Insular de Tenerife.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study was conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki. The study was approved and authorized by the educational area of the Cabildo Insular de Tenerife. October 2019.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from the study participants.

Data Availability Statement

The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy and is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


To all the participants for their collaboration and to the Cabildo Insular de Tenerife.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

In order to continue developing the SIMUL Program, we need to know the opinion of the young people who have participated in order to improve the activities and actions of the program. The questionnaire is anonymous, and it will only take you 5 min to fill it in.
Thank you very much for your collaboration and for contributing to the improvement of the Project.
1. School:
2. Grade:
3. In the 2020–2021 academic year, I have participated in the SI-MUL phases....Phase 1  Phase 2  
4. Project activities…nothing a little some a lot 
They are entertaining
They are useful (they have a meaning; I know why they are done)
They are short in time (not too long)
They make me reflect
5. Participating in the SIMUL project has meant for me…nothing a little some a lot 
To increase my knowing/discovering the elderly
Changing my view of older people
To be able to play the role of teacher with older people
To be able to participate in common projects of social co-responsibility
Being able to establish bonds of affection between different generations
To be able to support other people and members of my community
To be able to interact and cooperate to achieve common goals
Increase my willingness to participate in projects that benefit the community
6. At SIMUL I have learned…nothing a little some a lot 
To detect ageist attitudes and behaviors
To modify my own ageist attitudes and behaviors
About the transmission of stereotypes
To become aware of the influence of gender on ageism (age-associated stereotypes)
To be more empathetic
Better ways to communicate with people
To cooperate in order to achieve common goals
To create activities to support and/or help others
To establish other means of communication with young people
6. SIMUL taught menothinga littlesomea lot
To establish other means of communication with the elderly
Design projects in collaboration with others
Another way of learning
7. SIMUL global rating (0 to 10):             
8. What has SIMUL brought you?
9. For the next year, what should we change or improve in SIMUL?           
10. For the next year, what should we keep (or not change) in SIMUL?          
11. Would you like to participate next year?  Yes    No   
12. Would you recommend this project to others? Yes    No   
Would you like to add something?                           

Appendix B

Table A1. Semi-structured interview with SIMUL monitors.
Table A1. Semi-structured interview with SIMUL monitors.
CategoryQuestionQuestion Number
Objectives and activitiesDo you consider that the project objectives have been achieved in phase 1? What about phase 2?1
Are the proposed activities adequate to achieve these objectives?2
Do you consider that the objectives and activities are adequately written so that they are easy to understand?3
Are the activities properly justified and is their purpose understood?4
What activities would you not include in future promotions?5
Is there any particular activity that you think should be maintained?6
Do you consider that it is useful (contributes to achieving the objectives)/appropriate/necessary to propose activities to be carried out outside the timetable of the sessions (challenges section)? Is it worth including them? Do you think that the participants would carry out these challenges?7
MaterialsDo you consider that the materials used in the activities are adequate?8
Were the materials available when needed?9
Have you encountered any difficulties related to materials?10
Time and phasesHow often should the sessions be held (once a week, every 15 days...)?11
Should the sessions be held on a regular schedule (always on the same day at the same time) or is it also correct to hold them at different times? What about phase 2?12
Does phase 1 of the project work in an intensive program? That is, are the objectives achieved if the sessions are delivered intensively?13
Is the duration of Phase 1 of the project adequate (20 h) and could the objectives be achieved in less time?14
How long (in hours/minutes) should the sessions be in phase 1? And in phase 2?15
How do you think the phases of the project should be distributed? Do you think it is appropriate for phase 1 to be taught in the morning and phase 2 in the afternoon? Would it be more appropriate for both to be carried out at the same time? Both for young and old?16
At what point or stage do you think young and old should meet?17
Is it necessary to carry out phase 1 with the elderly? If so, how long do you think this phase should last? What should be its objectives?18
Category 4: EvaluationDo you consider the evaluation method of the project (observation + questionnaires of the sessions) to be adequate?19
Would you use any other type of evaluation?20
Category 5: SIMUL TeamWhat profile do you think monitors should have? Should they have previous training? What type of training?21
What is the role of the monitors in the project? What should be their responsibilities?22
What roles or positions do you think there should be in the SIMUL team?23
In terms of coordination between project professionals, do you consider it necessary to have regular coordination meetings?24
How often should these meetings be held (once a week, every 15 days...)? Should there be a fixed day and time for the meetings?25
What do you think should be the purpose(s) of these meetings?26
Category 6: Center requirementsWhat requirements should the centers that want to participate in the project meet?27
What things do you think the center should do during the development of the project?28
What do the centers need to do to make the project work?29
What commitment is asked of the center?30
Category 7: General difficultiesWhat technical difficulties have you encountered in developing the project?31
In addition to technical difficulties, what other difficulties have you encountered as monitors in carrying out the project? In phase 1? And in phase 2?32
What aspects of the project work best? What would you keep for future promotions?33
What should be changed or improved?34
Category 8: General assessment/conclusionsWhat is your overall assessment of the project?35
Is there anything else you would like to share about the project?36


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Table 3. Characteristics of Intergenerational Education (IE) in the project.
Table 3. Characteristics of Intergenerational Education (IE) in the project.
Characteristics of IESIMUL Project
Intercultural dialogueIs developed through dialogue, with intergenerational dialogue being particularly important, directly involving a cultural exchange between generations.
Free choiceFirst, the schools freely choose their participation in the project. Subsequently, once Phase 1 is over, the participants freely choose whether they want to continue with the development of the project in Phase 2.
Shared motivationThe project (S-L) developed in Phase 2 is directed towards a goal shared and agreed upon by all participants.
Peer-to-peer relationshipOne of the basic principles is the relationship of equality among its participants: it does not pretend that older adults provide a service to young people, or vice versa, but it proposes a joint work framed in the philosophy of S-L.
Gratification of life projectsThe activities are designed to generate rewarding experiences for all participants. These activities are the basis for maintaining motivation and commitment to the project, as well as encouraging creativity.
Source: García (2003) and García (2005a).
Table 4. Overcoming barriers to intergenerational communication in the project.
Table 4. Overcoming barriers to intergenerational communication in the project.
Barrier OvercomingReason
AgeismYesPhase 1 works exhaustively on ageism. In addition, the intergenerational meeting completes the theoretical and practical work of Phase 1 (hypothesis of intergroup contact).
Lexical differences-The theoretical and practical work of Phase 1 aims to establish a common framework. However, the barriers to communication that arise in the use of virtual media make this point difficult.
ValuesYesValues of equality, respect, collaboration, solidarity, etc., are worked on in both groups. All participants manage to share certain basic values and their meaning.
Narcissistic ideaYesThe contribution to the S-L project from a position of equality between generations reduces the narcissistic idea of each one of them.
SpacesYesOne of the main objectives of the project is the creation of intergenerational meeting spaces.
Physical wearNoHearing and vision difficulties are accentuated by the virtual nature of the meetings.
Both older adults and younger people, and even the facilitators, present significant barriers to communication.
Source: Muñoz (2003).
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González-Afonso, M.; Estévez-Moreira, M.d.C.; Delgado-Castro, A.; Pérez-Jorge, D. Is Virtual Communication Possible in Intergenerational Programs? The SIMUL Project. Soc. Sci. 2023, 12, 199.

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González-Afonso M, Estévez-Moreira MdC, Delgado-Castro A, Pérez-Jorge D. Is Virtual Communication Possible in Intergenerational Programs? The SIMUL Project. Social Sciences. 2023; 12(4):199.

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González-Afonso, Miriam, María del Carmen Estévez-Moreira, Andrea Delgado-Castro, and David Pérez-Jorge. 2023. "Is Virtual Communication Possible in Intergenerational Programs? The SIMUL Project" Social Sciences 12, no. 4: 199.

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