There is something about the way children light up a room that is magical. And nothing illustrates that energy better than witnessing a child interacting with an older adult. It often brings out the best in both of them. In fact, studies show that with intergenerational activities, seniors experience better self-esteem, increased communication and decision making skills. It can even help improve memory!
Children reap the benefits as well. They’ve shown improved test scores and academic achievement while being mentored by a senior friend or loved one. For some children, seniors fill the shoes of the grandparents they may not have. Many believe seniors can give children the kind of unconditional love and attention they need. They can accept a child without judgment. That is an emotional bond that is invaluable and so important for both groups in today’s world.
An Aging Generation
According to the U.S. Administration of Aging, by the year 2030, one in five Americans will be aged 65 or older.
While some worry about what that will mean for our nation in terms of health care and retirement costs, many sociologists and psychologists say there is an upside as well. “Having emotional enriching interactions between young people and the elderly can be especially positive for both, providing rich interactions and mutual learning from each other.
Connections Are Important
In a recent study from Kansas State University on children’s perceptions of older adults, findings indicated that without interaction with older adults, children may develop stereotypes and misconceptions about the older generation. In general, American children felt negative about older adults and aging.
Exposing children to seniors throughout their life, whether a relative, a friend or through an assisted living near you, can do wonders for young and old alike. If you don’t have an older relative to spend time with, consider regular visits to a senior community near you. Your child will make important connections that will impact them throughout their life.
Activities to Enjoy Together
The best way to bridge the gap is to spend time together. Here are some simple ways children and older adults can enjoy each other’s company:
1. Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts can bring out the kid in all of us. There is no better way to enjoy an indoor activity together than creating something you’ll both love. And it will provide a keepsake to remind you of your special day. For some great ideas on craft projects for kids and senior’s to do together, check out these boards on Pinterest.
2. Nature Walks
Enjoy some fresh air together! Go to a park or just walk around the neighborhood. Kids love looking at birds, trees and asking questions about their surroundings. The fresh air and exercise will be good for both of you too. You could even plan a scavenger hunt or just collect some leaves and bring them home to do a craft together.
3. Baking and Cooking
Who doesn’t enjoy the smell of fresh baked cookies? And children love being in the kitchen. Why not show them the secret to making those cookies extra delicious? It’s a great way to teach them measurements and math and even the littlest ones love to give the batter a stir. You’ll be making not only cookies, but also great memories together.
4. Puzzles and Games
Nothing is better for memory and cognitive development for the young and old than working on a puzzle or playing a board game. Introduce them to the classic board or card games you played as a kid. Or let them bring one of their own and teach you how to play.
5. Reading Together
There is nothing greater for a child’s education than learning the love of reading at a young age. Whether you read the newest children’s books together or the classics, you’ll be introducing them to the importance of reading and a whole world of adventure to share together. If they’re old enough, have them read to you.
Do you have a green thumb? Gardening together is not only a great outdoor activity to share, but you’ll also be teaching the next generation about where our food comes from and the importance of ecosystems. Kids love digging in the dirt and using the watering can. They may even learn to love vegetables fresh out of the garden, which is an added bonus.
7. Tablet or Smartphone Play
Even if you’re a wiz with your smartphone or tablet, kids have a lot they can teach you about the latest applications. Why not play together and have them show you a few things as you go? Children get so much satisfaction and self-confidence teaching others a new skill. And learning new things is a great way to keep your mind sharp at any age.
8. Lunch Date
Who doesn’t like to have lunch out? Take them to a favorite restaurant and treat them to an ice cream sundae for dessert. If you live in a senior community, invite them over for a special lunch together. Most communities offer a wide variety of food on the menu and ice cream is often a staple.