The Northland Foundation established the KIDS PLUS Program in 1990 to take a more active role in improving the well-being of children and youth. Thanks to cooperation among caring adults, energetic youth, and engaged communities throughout the region, northeastern Minnesota has become a state and national leader in valuing and nurturing our future generations.

AGE to age Proctor
The Proctor AGE to age group, G3 - Gathering Generations
for Greatness, recently hosted a community barbeque.

AGE to age: bringing generations together

When the energy and enthusiasm of youth meets the wisdom and patience of elders, it creates a powerful spark. AGE to age: bringing the generations together is helping ten small northeastern Minnesota communities and reservations to harness this brilliant combination.

The Northland Foundation launched AGE to age in June 2008 with funding from the Community Experience Partnership, an aging initiative of The Atlantic Philanthropies. Where communities in the region once lacked an avenue to bring the young and not-so-young together, there is now a “place” to forge relationships and work together to solve local issues.

“As an older adult, we tend to talk to people our own age. It is so interesting to talk to young people; they have different concerns.  I really enjoy the young people’s sense of humor and their boundless energy,” said retiree Tom Ward of Proctor, Minnesota.

The foundation has facilitated 42 meetings in seven towns and three Indian reservations, attracting 600 people age 55-plus and 320 young people ages 11 to 18.  The awe-inspiring results? Locally driven projects that respect the uniqueness of each community. Among these projects are wellness, recreational, and volunteer opportunities; technology programs in which young people mentor older adults; and activities that help elders to share traditional culture, values, and way of life with youth.

One such example is the Bois Forte Reservation’s group, Anishanaabayoong: Past, Present, Future, in which reservation elders are teaching young people traditions such as beading and ricing. A serendipitous sidenote: the group’s gatherings have joined members of the geographically isolated Vermillion and Nett Lake communities in an exciting new way.

“This program has brought our two Reservation communities, which are located 60 miles from each other, together as a single community in a way that I have never before seen,” said Jeanine Whiteman, the Bois Forte AGE to age Coordinator.

The Northland Foundation is currently seeking matching funds to secure an additional Community Experience Partnership grant that will enable the ten AGE to age sites to expand their projects as well as underwrite replication efforts to share program design and lessons learned across the state and country.

The most powerful proof of AGE to age’s impact, however, hits at a much more personal level and signifies an important shift in how people of different ages perceive one another. Eleventh grader Kateisha Miller of Proctor, Minnesota expressed it well. “I am really glad our community has AGE to age.  It’s fun to hang-out with people who are not your own age,” she said.


KIDS PLUS has evolved into a diverse array of initiatives that galvanize communities around the needs of children and young people, from infancy to adulthood.

AGE to age map