May is Older Americans Month, and a great time to start connecting your preschoolers or older kiddos with seniors in your community. Before I had a child, older adults were my jam. I have worked with older adults of all abilities for over 15 years, learning from and loving them all along the way. The seniors at my workplace ooohed and aaaahed over my growing pregnant belly and threw me a surprise baby shower as my due date grew closer. Once I returned from maternity leave, my son was a regular part of my work life, bringing smiles (and spit up) to every senior he interacted with. Even now that I am at home full-time, my writing work still revolves around seniors and those who care for them.
There have been plenty of studies on the benefits of inter-generational interaction, for both children and seniors. I had the privilege of being around my grandparents and great-grandparents all of my life. My Great Grandma Fuzzy and Great Grandpa Porky (rad names, right?) were an active part of my life through adulthood. My Grandpa Tink (another rockin’ name) is almost 90 and healthier than most 30 year olds. My son Jackson loves his Great Grandpa Tink. “Mama, I love him so much,” is a typical response when you ask Jackson about his great grandpa, and Grandpa Tink is a nightly staple in his prayers. Because I love seniors and I love the positive impact that inter-generational relationships can have on everyone involved, here are a few ideas on how you can make May the beginning of an ongoing relationship with a senior near you.
Don’t limit it to family.
Listen, you don’t need a grandma or a grandpa in order to have an inter-generational connection for your child. In fact, some grandma and grandpa relationships might do more harm than good. In order to find a senior that you love, don’t limit yourself to family.
Our neighbor across the street is a widow named Evelyn. Our little family loves her so. Because we love her, and because we should take care of one another, we are always looking for ways to serve her. Jackson and my husband scoop her driveway after a big snow, or we take her over a few pieces of lasagna for dinner. Jackson loves to go visit her; she loves to hear him chat all about his days at preschool and he loves her hugs and her candy drawer. It’s a match made in heaven, and our relationship is an important one.
Write a letter.
Your inter-generational relationship doesn’t necessarily need to be fostered with in-person visits. A pen pal set up is perfect for your elementary schooler who is working on reading and writing. It is fun for both sides to receive mail and send notes, coloring creations, and cards.
Find a common interest.
Starting a conversation or relationship isn’t awkward if you already have some common ground. Find interests or hobbies that you share and strike up a conversation about it. Take your senior neighbor fishing at his favorite spot or invite your senior musician friend to your son’s violin recital.
My inter-generational relationships are some of the most educational, and some of the richest, in my life. I hope that Jackson continues to have such positive interactions and relationships with older adults as he grows up. Good luck as you bring some senior love to your life this month!
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