The Value of Intergenerational Living | Donna Butts

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Generations United

Ep. 181 - Donna Butts - Would you consider pursuing an intergenerational family living setup? Donna Butts explains to us the benefits of intergenerational living in connecting all members of the community. Ms. Butts has committed a lifetime to advance the work of the local and nonprofit community through her professional, public policy, and literary contributions, in the field of youth and family development. She began her career as a youth development worker with the YWCA in her home state of Oregon. Over the years, her career led to her current position as CEO of Generations United, a position she has held for nearly 25 years. Donna is a recognized expert in the field of intergenerational family connections as evidenced by her frequent and marquee-level interviews, publications, and public testimony on this time-honored family and community-building body of work. In this episode, Donna talks about intergenerational connections and why society needs to integrate this form of living. Listen in to learn the importance of involving the elderly in the community through intergenerational living. You will also learn the economic and social benefits of intergenerational living, especially during and after the pandemic.

Key Takeaways:

  • The responsibility and commitment you have to support families in whatever position you’re in
  • How to care and support families where grandparents are helping raise their grandkids
  • How to find success through the support and love of living in an intergenerational family setup

"People of all ages and in all stages of life can be involved in communities because we are stronger when we are working together." -Donna Butts

In this episode you’ll discover:

Donna describes her passion for intergeneration connections and the history and purpose of GU [2:00]

The importance of families being involved in infrastructure development for them to function [7:56]

Why society needs to acknowledge and support families coming and living together [12:24]

How the pandemic has transformed intergenerational families and how they function [18:49]

The steps to having open communication to help manage an intergenerational family [22:35]

Finding success and functionality coming together to live as intergenerational families [25:33]



Donna Butts is the Executive Director of Generations United (GU), a position she has held since 1997.  She has worked tirelessly to promote the well-being of children, youth, and older adults through nonprofit organizations across the country and around the world for more than 30 years.

Butts has held leadership positions with Covenant House, a New York-based international youth-serving organization, and the National 4-H Council. She served as the Executive Director for the National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting, and Prevention before taking the helm of Generations United.

An internationally sought-after speaker, author, and advocate, Donna frequently speaks on intergenerational connections, grandparents raising grandchildren, and policies effective across the lifespan.


Her commentary has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Wall Street Journal. She has been interviewed on the TODAY Show, National Public Radio, and ABC News, and was invited by the United Nations to sit on four expert panels most recently on intergenerational solidarity and social cohesion in preparation for the 2014 20th anniversary of the International Year or the Family.


In 2004, Butts was honored with the National Council on Aging’s Jack Ossofsky for Leadership, Creativity, and Innovation in Programs and Services for Older Persons. She served as a 2005 delegate to the White House Conference on Aging.

She was recognized three years in a row (2012, 2013, and 2014) by The Nonprofit Times as one of the Top 50 most powerful and influential nonprofit executives in the nation.

In 2015, she was named one of the Top 50 Influencers in Aging by Next Avenue. Under her leadership, Generations United received the 2015 Eisner Prize for Excellence in Intergenerational Advocacy. Recently she was honored with one of the 2017 International Federation for Family Development Awards.


She is a former chair of the board of the International Consortium of Intergenerational Programmes (ICIP) and serves on the board of the Journal of Intergenerational Relationships.


Butts received her undergraduate degree from Marylhurst College and is a graduate of Stanford University’s Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders.


Generations United Website


Testimony to Commission on Housing and Health

National Academy of Social Insurance

Testimony to Senate Finance

YT Health, Aging and Intergenerational Collaboration

YT Donna Butts on Multigenerational Households

YT A Message from Donna Butts


Wendee Wechsberg

Annamarie Pluhar

Sharon Wilson Geno

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