A fresh perspective. Support and encouragement. Mutual understanding. Intergenerational relationships are a lovely, tree-lined two-way street, truly a gift that keeps on giving. That special bond between grandparent and precious little one provides food for both souls. Each brings a smorgasbord of treats to the table. For Mom and Dad in the middle, sharing time with both their kids and parents is special and priceless.
When families are separated by miles, seniors can find ways to spend time with kids in the community and create friendships that nurture, enlighten and expand the horizons of both the young and the young at heart.
Benefits of Intergenerational Relationships
· Mutual Exchange of Knowledge
You’ve been around the block and know a lot of stuff kids don’t. But guess what? They know a few things that may surprise you as well. Sharing your wealth of experience and learning about their world in return is a win/win for everybody. And if you’re lucky, your new friend will help you download or upload or whatever it is you need to do on your phone or iPad.
· Create Positive Feelings
Reaching out to younger people is a great way to generate positive energy and combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially for those who have lost a loved one.
· Improve Your Health
Would you believe children are great for your health? Apparently, studies suggest adults who spend time with children burn 20% more calories per week, are less likely to experience a fall, and tend to perform better on memory tests.
· Leave a Legacy
Through our intergenerational relationships, older adults can pass on our skills and wisdom and send a personal message into the future.
For kids, spending time with older adults can positively impact self-esteem, improve social, reading, and communication skills, and create a new respect for their parents and grandparents. A relationship with an understanding older friend can also provide a safe place in which to speak freely about issues they might not feel comfortable addressing with friends or parents.
There are all kinds of organizations that facilitate intergenerational relationships. Volunteering at a school, library or with a youth group is a great way to get started. Dispelling negative and inaccurate age-related stereotypes, these programs allow for open exchanges that promote compassion and empathy.
When you do get the chance to spend time with a younger person—whether it’s your own grandkid or someone else’s—here are a few suggestions for activities to enjoy together.
· Create a garden
· Listen to each other’s music
· Share your family history with a favorite photo album
· Read a book together
· Enjoy a movie
· Dine out at a restaurant
· Picnic in the park
· Take a walk
· Bake cookies
As American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of the nation.” Reach out and welcome the opportunity to engage with the younger generation. It may be the start of a beautiful friendship.