In the recent past, extended families often lived within the same home or very close to each other; however, this does not occur as frequently today. Even though people live healthier, longer lives, they expect to be self-sufficient. The trend in recent decades is for older Canadians to live alone.
As a result of this desire for independence, either by nuclear families or older adults, only one in eight single elderly adults now lives with extended family. The paradox is that although children today are more likely to have healthy, active grandparents, they are also less likely to know their grandparents well or visit with them frequently.
While it is not always possible for families to be in close proximity, it is important for both youth and seniors to connect with those of differing generations.
Benefits of Intergenerational Relationships
Developing connections with a younger generation can help older adults feel a greater sense of fulfillment. In fact, linking older adults with youth can provide advantages for both groups. For example, such relationships can:
- Provide an opportunity for both to learn new skills
- Give the child and the older adult a sense of purpose
- Help to alleviate fears children may have of the elderly
- Help children to understand and later accept their own aging
- Invigorate and energize older adults
- Help reduce the likelihood of depression in the elderly
- Reduce the isolation of older adults
- Fill a void for children who do not have grandparents available to them
- Help keep family stories and history alive
- Aide in cognitive stimulation as well as broaden social circles should a youth introduce technology into the life a senior
Activities that Initiate, Build and Strengthen Inter-generational Relationships
- Storytelling. Swapping stories is a great activity and can help build a connection.
- Learning skills. Many older adults have skills or talents that would be interesting for children. Perhaps your child could learn to weave, crochet, fish, bake, or even take care of animals.
- Reading to each other.
- Planning/preparing a meal (if applicable).
- Talking about ethnic heritage. Share ethnic customs, discuss the meaning of a name in native language, or relate special stories passed down about culture.
- Planting seeds or gardening. This illustrates the stages of the life cycle. A container garden can be created if bending or space are issues.
- Weather watching.
- Discussing hobbies and sharing examples.
- Having the child teach the senior a new technology
At Educara we have seen the power of inter-generational relationships first hand. Our children have had our grand-friends rich history brought to life through the stories they share with our children. And the spark of vitality has returned to the faces of so many of our grand-friends who benefit from the youthful conversations and activities they share with both children and our staff.
Educara is committed to strengthening these important relationships, bridging the gap between generations and even becoming extended family to those who are in need of the bonds of inter-generational relationships.
Visit our face book album “Baking with Grand-Friends- Inter-generational Fun!” to see our latest Inter-generational activity!