How to Encourage Children to Interact with the Elderly

How to Encourage Children to Interact with the Elderly

How to Encourage Children to Interact with the Elderly.
How to Encourage Children to Interact with the Elderly.

How to Encourage Children to Interact with the Elderly.

The month before last, my grandma turned 90 years old. She is feisty, hilarious, and has a vast array of creative skills, including hand-hooked rugs, fabric paintings, and quilts that have won prestigious awards.

She gave birth to five children, all of whom are now grown and have provided her with a family that now numbers about 40 members, including 13 grandkids and nine great-grandchildren. A few weeks ago, we surprised her with a party that we had planned in secret. A number of toasts were given, there were many embraces given, and there were many rounds of singing that took place.

Now 90, Grammie still lives alone. Her precise handiwork has unquestionably helped her keep her mind sharp, but just like anybody else who is getting older, she is prone to being confused or forgetful. She is remarkably self-sufficient in a lot of ways, but she still needs assistance from her family, particularly from her children, as she continues to negotiate the ins and outs of everyday life.

In spite of the fact that these aspects of aging are inevitable, I continue to think of Grammie as the wonderful old lady who laughs so hard that she can’t tell her own jokes and who has been known to sing “Come on baby light my fire!” while she is washing the dishes.

But I frequently find myself wondering whether my children, who haven’t had the chance to get to know her for so many years, have the same impression of her as I do. Sometimes it seems as if they are unclear how to behave around her or they try to avoid touch with her. My son has a lot of inquiries about his great-grandmother and her life, as he is trying to figure out how she is connected to both him and the other children his age.

They have no idea who she was when she was younger, so today, at the age of 90, they are trying to piece together who she is.

In their eyes, those of more advanced age is a mystery.

It’s possible that I shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that my children are less at ease with the unknowable. In their eyes, those of more advanced age is a mystery.

They don’t have many elderly individuals in their lives, and even fewer people are at the period of life when more noticeable physical changes are starting to set in. This is a consequence of contemporary lifestyles, which tend to include fewer instances of intergenerational cohabitation. The majority of us do not live with our parents or grandparents, nor are we particularly close to them (though, of course, some cultural traditions value these connections more than others).

On top of that, the way our lives are structured does not necessarily encourage interaction between people of different generations.

Our children spend time at school and at home with adult caregivers who are around the same age as their parents or grandparents, but who are often not older than 60 years old. And it’s possible that prior generations spent more time socializing with their neighbors than we do now.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this, not just in our own family but also from studies conducted on intergenerational perspectives in general, is that youngsters who do not spend time with older folks have less favorable impressions of those individuals (Heyman et al, 2011; Davidson et al, 2008; Okoye, 2008; Osborne Hannon and Hall Gueldner, 2006).

Because of this, the two generations may not be able to reap the full advantages of the exchanges that may be possible between them.

For the purpose of assisting my children in forming connections that are beneficial to both themselves and older generations, I am looking for ways to make it easier for them to interact with their older friends and family members, as well as with other older people they may come across in the future. According to Page et al (1981), I had best get going on this as soon as possible; the findings of this study indicated that children should be informed about aging before they reach the age of six if we want to cultivate more favorable perceptions of aging in the future.

So, what options do we have? I’m going to give these three suggestions a go…

It would seem that a crucial first step is to increase the amount of quality time spent together that young people spend with their senior relatives and friends.
We can be more conscientious about paying my grandma a visit every time we are “in her area” (a few hours away), and we can find methods to shift the discussion toward story-telling that may help my children connect to her and appreciate what she can share with them.

In a similar vein, we have an elderly neighbor whom we often only see when we are walking by; either we may make an effort to check in on him more frequently or we can revive our acquaintance with an elderly neighbor who resided in the area we previously called home. It is through actions like these that we can show our young people that our ancestors are an essential component of both our family and our community.

It has been shown that children’s perspectives of aging are positively influenced when formal programming brings together people of different ages (Heyman et al, 2011).
I really recall when I was younger participating in a letter pal project with an old acquaintance of my parents, and I also remember that when I was younger, my sister conducted interviews with our great aunt to hear about her wonderfully fascinating life. We undoubtedly felt more at ease among our elder friends and family members because of these events, but they were quite rare and didn’t take place until we were a lot older.

Although joint child and eldercare programs seem to be a great alternative, it’s likely not one that’s available to everyone right now. Instead, we might search for community-based programs that will assist our youngsters in interacting with nice people of a more mature age. For instance, there are organizations that recruit older citizens who have retired to donate their time to read to youngsters in either local libraries or schools. The additional advantage is that these programs are also advantageous for the adults who donate their time, as it gives them the opportunity to engage more actively in their communities and boosts their feelings of self-worth and togetherness (Skropeta et al, 2014).

In addition to encounters that take place in person, we may also consider how older people are portrayed, if at all, in the books and other forms of media that are geared at children.
The reading of children’s books that include a range of elder characters may, according to the findings of some studies, assist young readers in developing “more sophisticated thinking about age” (Larkin et al, 2013). How often is it to find characters who are middle-aged or older in the novels that you read to your kids, and how are such characters portrayed? Where do the older people stand in the plot? An interesting study conducted by Sciplino et al. (2010) revealed that more than fifty percent of grandparents depicted in literature from three different cultures were shown engaging in “sedentary physical activities” (do you remember the four grandparents who shared a bed in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?). In addition to that, 59 percent of grandfathers had white hair. The researchers suggested that children are being shown a “standardized representation of grandparents.” On the other hand, there are other options. Visit the library in your area and look for books that feature elderly characters that are engaging and who engage in engaging activities. Look through the gathered lists on Reading Rockets, Generations United, or Pinterest for some pointers and inspiration.

Intergenerational relationships have an incredible amount of promise as a vehicle for the advancement of society. It is vital to pay attention to the ways in which these connections manifest themselves within our families and communities. If these interactions are not already a part of our lives, it is essential that we take the initiative to do so so that they may become a component of our lives.