Elders and Children – The Perfect Combination

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If you’re anything like me, some of your fondest memories are those of spending time with a grandparent. I can still remember the special smells coming from my granny’s kitchen as I tried to climb out of her feather bed early in the morning. I loved to visit her garden and was amazed how it seemed to thrive in the Oklahoma red dirt and the humid hot summers. At almost 60 years old, it seems like yesterday instead of decades ago.

Now that I’m a grandparent, I’m fairly certain my grandparents also cherished our time together. Getting older often means a person has limited time with those of the younger generation. After all, young families are busy and there’s not always time to visit the grandparents or great-grandparents. So, make the time. What you’ll be giving your children and your elderly loved one is pure joy and cherished memories.

Adopt a Grandparent

Since both sets of my grandparents lived in Oklahoma and we lived in California, I hungered for time with elders. I was very attached to older people at church, but the elderly lady who lived across the street was a pure God-send. I called her “Grandma Pauline.” She’d invite me over for tea and toast with orange marmalade. She had wonderful antique books and would sit and read to me for hours. Since her family rarely visited I was often the only company she would have.

If you live far from family, try to take your children or grandchildren to the local senior centers or senior communities. Most of us know someone who lives in a senior community and you’d be giving them a thrill if you took a youngster to visit. Children make us remember our own childhoods and for those with dementia, those early years offer the best memories of all. While those with dementia often forget what they just had to eat, most can remember their childhood and early adulthood and both are a happy place to go.

Intergenerational Programs are Growing!

Senior centers and senior communities in hundreds of locations across the globe have now begun to bring children to visit seniors on a regular basis. Some pre-schools have sprung up in the same buildings where seniors congregate for clubs, exercise and meals. Even the experts are amazed how these programs have become the most popular activities they offer. If you’re the care partner for an elderly loved one, check in to your local senior center and see if they offer an intergenerational program.

Hospitals, Schools and Libraries

Almost all seniors love to feel needed and have purpose in their lives. Many hospitals encourage elders to come down and rock babies. It’s proven that human contact and a kind voice helps many infants recover faster from illnesses. It’s also a fact that most elders love to rock a baby!

Schools and libraries count on seniors to help out with reading programs. Some help children learn to read while others read out loud from those wonderful children’s books. It’s obvious to any who have watched an elder read to children how much both love the experience.

I have a part time job down at a local elementary school where a number of “retired” seniors also work part time. When I see Mr. Al, there’s usually a crowd of children around him. He loves interacting with the kids and the students adore him. He works just a couple of hours a day helping children cross the street and attending to them during recess. His wife works in the cafeteria as a cashier where she is very popular with the students. If your dad has declined after a retirement, you might encourage him to volunteer or take a part time job.

Encourage Them to Stay Connected

Keeping elders connected to youngsters is a perfect way to keep them healthy. Isolation is the worst thing for anyone, so encourage your elder to stay in touch, to get involved with people, and tell them how much it will mean to this next generation.

The article was reviewed December 2023 from its original date of publication, March 2016.

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