There are cultures throughout the world in which the elderly are cherished members of their extended family, all of whom live together. In the not so distant past in America, this was a common occurrence. Multigenerational families lived together or at least near each other. Times have changed, though, and this is not so common today.
In recent decades, more and more Americans began living alone. Many adult children work and live in different states away from their senior parents. Because seniors are living healthier, longer lives and remaining independent longer than in past generations, elderly moms and dads are generally living self-sufficiently. Out of every eight single senior adults today, only one lives with any extended family. While children are more likely to have active and healthy grandparents, they are less likely to see them very often.
Intergenerational Relationships Benefit Both Youth and Seniors
Psychologist Erik Erikson’s pioneering work in the life stages of human emotional development describes the final developmental stage as occurring in a person’s. Observations have clearly shown that promoting connections between seniors and youth enhance seniors’ feelings of fulfillment. Advantages for both groups include:
- Providing both with a sense of purpose
- Providing a surrogate grandparent for children
- Reducing fear children have of seniors
- Assisting children in understanding/ potentially accepting their own aging
- Energizing the life of a senior
- Potentially reducing the development of depression in seniors
- Keeping history and family stories alive
- Helping both learn new skills
To initiate and build relationships across the generations, some suggested activities are:
- Storytelling: great way to get to know each other
- Reading to each other
- Learning Skills: sharing hobbies like knitting, wood carving, fishing, baking, video games, puzzles
- Cooking a Meal: planning, preparing and eating together
- Scrapbooking/Phone Buddies: pairing seniors and kids who come home alone after school
- Planting Seeds/Gardening: experiencing life cycles
- Technology: kids teaching seniors new technology; seniors teaching kids theirs (i.e. sewing, woodworking)
The Power of Intergenerational Relationships
Caregivers providing in-home care services can help facilitate these youth-senior interactions for the elderly they serve. The benefits of these visits for seniors receiving elderly home care will include new vitality, optimism and a sense of great purpose.