By Nori Patnode, Certified Senior Advisor at Concierge Care Advisors
There is a lot of value in bringing children or teens together with seniors. Each generation can learn much from the one another. Many Senior Living Communities have recognized the value in intergenerational interactions and have started programs bringing children or teens together with their residents. Some communities have daycares in or near their buildings and ask seniors to volunteer to read or tell stories to the small children. Activity Directors have the children join their senior residents once or twice a week to take part in art projects.
Imagine the possibilities with older adults having the opportunity to share their life experiences, while at the same time feeling valued. Maybe they spent their life as a chef or just love to cook. Seniors could be matched up with a teen and teach them a few things in the kitchen! Perhaps explain how and when they learned a recipe, and any historical or cultural significance regarding their dish. Seniors could run workshops where they share their hobbies with their youth partner. They might share their love of quilting, knitting, word working, or building model trains, cars, or ships. The possibilities are endless, and so are the talents of our seniors. People enjoy being useful; it gives them a sense of purpose and fulfillment, something that can go missing upon retirement.
My son’s high school history class had an assignment requiring him to interview a senior and write a report and then present his report to his classmates. He decided to interview his grandmother and it was a wonderful experience; he learned so many things about her that he never knew, and so he truly valued the experience. She was excited to have the opportunity to share her life experiences with him, and I know it made her feel valued and loved. Many adults feel it’s their responsibility to engage a young person, but what if we as parents pointed out to our children that adults, and particularly elderly adults, enjoy talking about their lives, and perhaps even teaching younger people about life through their own experiences. Especially when a senior has an investment in that young adult’s life, such as a grandchild.
The other side of this equation is our young people’s knowledge about how to use computers, cell phones, smart televisions, etc. They too can share their knowledge with seniors and help them connect with their family members who live out of the area by email, Face Time or other social media. There are many classes a young a person could teach about technology to a group of seniors, or one on one. Many seniors are isolated and this is one way to bring a world of possibilities and interactions to them.
Some programs pair young people with a member of their community to provide services such as yard work, house cleaning, or other chores that have become difficult and may help a senior member of the community to remain in their home. Interestingly, some of these “helpers” end up in social work or other areas of caregiving, as they enjoy the experience of helping seniors so much.
There are many opportunities to explore for engaging in these wonderful interactions. The benefits to each group or generation are vast and significant. These interactions can help change long held views on aging, death and dying. Young people can benefit from the time seniors share tutoring them in reading, math or other subjects they are struggling with. Low income families who cannot afford tutors will be blessed by these interactions. We have all heard of the book “It Takes a Village” that Hillary Clinton referred to during her time as the First Lady. The book focuses on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have on a child’s well-being. Let’s allow the older generation to have a positive impact on our children, and let’s introduce our children to the possibility of creating a positive impact on our wonderful parents and grandparents.