Youngster.Co wins Intergenerational award

Youngster.Co founder Tony Rothacker receives the Australian Institute for Intergenerational Practice award from AIIP chair and founder Emeritus Professor Anneke Fitzgerald.

YOUNGSTER.CO, a Coffs Coast social enterprise connecting young and old, has won the Intergenerational Program of the Year 2024 (Adult) award offered by the Australian Institute for Intergenerational Practice (AIIP).

The awards recognise and celebrate achievements and contributions, encourage continued efforts in the intergenerational space, inspire others in the community and serve as examples of what can be done and achieved.

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“We’re over the moon to share that Youngster.Co has been honoured with this award,” Youngster.Co founder Tony Rothacker told News Of The Area.

In expressing a heartfelt thank you to the Institute for recognising Youngster.Co’s mission to connect generations through technology, Tony said, “This award is for every senior who’s learned to send their first email, for every youngster who’s discovered the wisdom of generations before them, and for every partner and supporter who believed in our vision.

“Your stories inspire us every day, and this accolade belongs to all of you.

“Let’s keep breaking barriers and building bridges together.”

Youngster.Co was built to address the critical societal issues of the widening intergenerational gap, loneliness among young and old, and the challenges posed by rapid technological advances.

The enterprise creates work and volunteering experiences for young people who assist seniors with their tech needs.

For example, facilitating weekly two-hour sessions in shopping centres and libraries and on an individual basis.

“Our underlying philosophy is to empower both seniors and youngsters by fostering meaningful connections between the two generations.

“Our purpose is twofold: to provide tech help for seniors and life skills for youngsters,” said Tony.

The overarching goal is to create a community where knowledge and skills are shared seamlessly across generations, aligning perfectly with intergenerational principles.

While the expected impacts of the program include increased tech literacy among seniors and enhanced social and communication skills among youngsters, an unexpected outcome is a remarkable improvement in the mental well-being of both groups.

“Seniors report feeling less isolated, and youngsters gain a sense of purpose and community responsibility.”

In the last twelve months, Youngster.Co has recruited 1,600 youngsters and assisted over 4,000 seniors across Australia.

“Our program is not just a service; it’s a community movement that has been embraced across 36 venues in Australia.

“We are not just filling a gap; we are building bridges between generations, proving that when given the opportunity, community spirit can flourish in the most beautiful ways,” said Tony.

The Australian Institute for Intergenerational Practice (AIIA) is a non-profit organisation established to advance evidence-based intergenerational activities across aged care and childcare facilities to foster meaningful engagement between young and old.

Emeritus Professor Anneke Fitzgerald, founder and chair of the AIIP, told News Of The Area, “Youngster.Co’s win is a testament to their exceptional alignment with the award’s selection criteria.

“Their tagline – ‘Tech help for seniors, life skills for youngsters’ – embodies the spirit of intergenerational practice, emphasising community building.

“The program’s innovative approach, utilising safe and accessible public environments, adds a unique dimension to its effectiveness.

“Youngster Co’s sustainable funding model, independent of grants, positions it for significant scalability.

“This also reflects the number of successful collaborations and partnerships Youngster.Co has made thus far, an integral piece of the puzzle in intergenerational practice,” she said.

Advocating for evidence-based practice and practice evaluation, AIIP acknowledged Youngster.Co’s unique use of ‘social return on investment’ to capture the shorter- and longer-term outcomes for stakeholders.

For the AIIP judges, overall, Youngster.Co stood out as an outstanding example of effective, impactful, and sustainable intergenerational initiatives, helping to address various societal issues with ingenuity and resourcefulness.


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