Seniors’ centres and child-care facilities are working together to run successful intergenerational day care programs in many communities across Canada.
Intergenerational programs for seniors offer an opportunity to bridge the generation gap offering numerous benefits for both generations.
Intergenerational programs for seniors and youth isn’t really a new idea, but this type of program is definitely a model of care that is getting more attention these days. Given the opportunity to share time together, seniors and children can enrich each other’s lives in many ways.
The generation gap at home
It used to be more common that multiple generations would share the same household. Grandparents would see their grandchildren every day and often shared in the responsibility of raising them.
Now, many families experience more of a separation in their everyday living arrangements between generations.
This separation could be due to living in different cities, living in larger homes where everyone has their own space, or the trend towards more seniors moving to senior living communities. These days, it’s rare to find grandparents and their grandchildren residing under one roof.
Types of intergenerational programs
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to intergenerational programs for seniors. For example, some schools or childcare facilities will plan weekly visits between children and seniors, other programs will involve daily classroom supports.
The idea is to get seniors and children interacting by spending time doing enjoyable activities together. Music, dance, reading, and art are some examples of activities people of any generation can enjoy together.
It’s important to look at the different age groups involved. Older children may be better suited for quiet visiting time, or possibly playing a card game or completing a puzzle. Whereas younger children may have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time, so they might enjoy more active games.
Something else that program administrators look at is ensuring that participants want to join the intergenerational program.
There are people who just aren’t interested in participating, or may not enjoy spending time with children so it’s important to the success of the program that everyone involved wants to participate.
Benefits of intergenerational programs
Both generations can benefit from the companionship, and there is a lot they can learn from one another.
Benefits for children
Children are reinforced with appropriate manners, patience, tolerance, and encouraged to explore their curiosity while learning empathy and important social skills. They learn how to interact with people who are much older and may need extra assistance or a more gentle approach.
Children develop a sense of pride and leadership even as they receive unconditional love and acceptance from seniors.
The children also learn about the importance of relationships with the seniors in their community.
Interacting with people of all ages and abilities is an important aspect of developing life-long social skills for children. There are even claims that children who share space with older adults demonstrate higher reading abilities, improved verbal and communication skills, and have fewer behavioural problems.
Benefits for seniors
For seniors participating in intergenerational day care programs the opportunity to spend time with children and the joy they bring is often the highlight of their day. The elderly are natural nurturers while children bring a lot of positive energy to any room they enter, and seniors are thriving off of that energy.
Some intergenerational programs for seniors report that seniors gain improved self-esteem and a feeling of usefulness within their communities. They may also be more active, which can help with their continued mobility; and the chance to exercise their minds in different ways doesn’t hurt either.
By sharing time together, seniors are helping the children learn and grow while the children help stimulate seniors both mentally and physically.
Some seniors are even interested in learning how to use new technology, and intergenerational day care programs can provide the perfect opportunity for knowledge sharing.
There are programs that offer seniors the chance to partner with a child/teen who can help them to learn to use things like Facebook, or a tablet.
Intergenerational programs for seniors offer an opportunity to bridge the generation gap offering numerous benefits for both generations. The care, the connections, and the intimate relationships that develop can be some of the most powerful things that we can witness as caregivers.
Meaningful social engagement through intergenerational activities is a value add for young and old. It’s important to learn from others and understand how to talk with and relate to people of all ages.
Intergenerational programs for seniors and youth is the kind of relationship building that is the cornerstone of respectful communities, which in turn helps to develop global citizenship.