October 23, 2015

Children & Elders: Benefits of Relationships

If you have fond memories of frequent visits with your grandparents or even living in the same town as your grandparents, you may one of the lucky few. While many of today's families are multigenerational and live under the same roof, some children don't know their grandparents very well due to long distances or may not have a grandmother or grandfather. Elderly individuals don't need to be biologically related to act as a mentor or a positive influence in a child's life. Many elders act as "honorary" grandparents for children of all ages. If your child doesn't have a close relationship with a grandparent or you want him or her to have more interaction with an older population, contact a nursing home in your local area; many places are more than happy to have visitors of all ages.

Why Intergenerational Relationships Matter

Creating a healthy and strong relationship with someone of a different generation is beneficial for everyone. Some children, who don't have frequent interactions with elders, may be afraid of older individuals. Similarly, elders who don't have regular interaction with younger people may have inaccurate assumptions about younger populations. While intergenerational relationships benefit individuals differently, here are a few benefits based on programs involving youth and elders:

  • Increase Understanding of Aging: Interacting with an elderly population helps children understand the aging process (how people slow down or how memories can change).
  • Improved Socialization: Children that interact with elders are more likely to have better social skills. Rather than socializing with individuals only within their peer group, they learn how to adapt (such as speaking loud/soft, articulately). They may also exhibit and have a better understanding of manners and overall respect.
  • Having Purpose: Both young individuals and the elderly may feel as if they have a purpose as they build their relationship. Children may notice they make an elder smile upon each visit and the elder may see that he or she has made a friend.
  • Increasing Wellness: Sadly, in some nursing homes across the country, some elders feel unsafe and are unhappy. Having visitors of all ages can improve moods, which as a result can improve the overall health and wellbeing of a nursing home resident.

What Can You Do?

If you want to participate in creating a healthy relationship with an elder, you don't need to be part of an official organization or class. Consider making holiday cards for elders or plan an activity (such as a game) that could include children and adults. Always call the nursing home ahead of time and communicate with the employees in charge; tell them what activities you have planned. Additionally, once you've created a schedule, stick to the plan as young and old depend on consistency.

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