In times past, people often lived close to their extended family and children grew up having regular interactions with grandparents, aging relatives, and elderly neighbors in their local communities. As we have become a more global society, many families move far away from parents and grandparents to busy cities where there is less access to and time available to intersect with older adults.
In a study conducted in 2016, researchers at Stanford discovered that aging adults are well suited to spend time with young children because they have more time and patience during this phase of their lives to provide the type of interactions and stimulation that children need to thrive. Their research indicated that, “Older adults are exceptionally suited to meet these needs in part because they welcome meaningful, productive activity, and engagement” and “they seek-and need-purpose in their lives” (McGuire, 2018, p. 2).
Older adults with declining health often need to move from their homes in neighborhoods with families and people of all ages, to retirement communities or care centers where they are surrounded only with other aging adults. Seniors with dementia face an even deeper isolation and lack of meaningful interactions as their cognitive and verbal skills decline.
Studies have shown there are positive impacts for both aging adults and children when they intentionally interact together. Generations United conducted research that “participation in intergenerational programs and meaningful cross-age relationships may decrease social isolation and increase older adults’ sense of belonging, self-esteem, and well-being, while also improving social and emotional skills of children and youth participants.” (Generations United and The Eisner Foundation Report, 2018, p. 9).
Ashley McGuire summarizes other key findings of this study as follows, “Young children who participated in the intergenerational care had more advanced motor and cognitive skills, higher development scores, and more advanced social and emotional competencies than their non-intergenerational peers” and “older adult participants reported lower levels of loneliness, reduced agitation, and improved health”. (McGuire, 2019, p. 4). Separate research has shown that children that have interactions with older adults also have fewer behavioral challenges (Heerema, 2019, p. 2).
At Lucy Anne’s Place Life Enrichment Center, Benevilla’s day program for adults with early to moderate stage dementia, members engage in meaningful activities daily with children from Wirtzie’s Preschool and Childcare. They play games, do crafts, garden, cook, exercise and dance. Members and children benefit greatly from this program. There are many smiles and hugs exchanged while learning and socialization is occurring.
If you would like to find out more visit Benevilla’s website at www.benevilla.org.
Generations United and The Eisner Foundation. 2018. All In Together: Creating Places Where Young And Old Thrive. Retrieved from www.gu.org/resources/all-in-together-creating-places-where-young-and-old-thrive.
Heerema, MSW, Esther. 2019. Therapeutic Benefits of Children for People Living with Dementia. Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/therapeutic-benefits-children-dementia-98690.
McGuire, Ashley. 2019. Toddlers and Seniors Together: The Benefits of Intergenerational Care.
https://ifstudies.org/blog/Toddlers and Seniors Together: The Benefits of Intergenerational Care.