I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up. In addition to weekend visits, we often spent weeks at a time doing things together, like fishing and gardening, but mostly just learning. My grandparents shared stories about their childhood days and what my parents were like when they were children – and told me about their shenanigans!
We didn’t call those experiences “intergenerational activities” back then. We called it “going to Grandma’s.”
Now that I have my first grandchild, I realize just how much my grandparents and I benefitted from the time we shared together.
Not everyone has grandparents who live nearby, and there are other reasons why grandparents and grandchildren miss out on the perks of sharing time with each other. Even so, those experiences are still available, thanks to opportunities to volunteer in youth or senior programs.
Children benefit from learning new skills, such as fishing, hunting, cooking, crafts, gardening, sewing, weather-watching and storytelling. In my own experience, I learned about local history, learned how to make our family’s staple desserts and gained an appreciation for my family’s traditions and heritage. It also helped me to appreciate that I was enjoying amenities and conveniences my parents and grandparents hadn’t even imagined.
Children and adults enjoy health benefits from time together, too. Seniors tell me that being around young people helps them feel energized. They engage in exercise and activities they wouldn’t have otherwise. Studies indicate seniors who volunteer with youth typically engage in more physical activities, resulting in burning 20 percent more calories! This exercise can result in a steadier gait and fewer falls. When people with dementia or Alzheimer’s participate in intergenerational activities, they perform better on memory tests. In the meantime, young children and infants who spend time with older adults exhibit higher social development, compared to their peers.
All ages benefit from interactions built around technology. Kids enjoy teaching it and seniors enjoy learning — everyone gains confidence! Sometimes seniors are hesitant to ask for assistance, but believe me, our youth are just waiting to be asked.
Both youth and seniors enjoy enhanced self-esteem and a greater sense of purpose when they spend meaningful time together. Young people learn that seniors’ needs really aren’t that different from their own. We all want to be listened to, and everyone wants to feel like they belong, and are valued and loved.
One of the benefits of being a senior learning to feel more confident, adventurous and forgiving of our own shortcomings. What a gift to share those insights with our youth! When young people share time with seniors, it helps to build self-esteem and self-awareness.
Both our youth and our seniors are treasure troves of unique experiences. When they have the opportunity to connect with one another, they are eager to learn and share what they know. By working together, we build emotionally and socially stronger generations and communities.
Dana Peveler is executive director of the Senior Community Center. There are many volunteer opportunities available for people of all ages! Call 270-687-4740 or visit seniorcenterodc.com to learn more.