Many cultures have long understood that a community’s oldest members can provide experience and wisdom to younger members. In the U.S., however, extended families with intergenerational support are declining. After many years of work, various programs are beginning to change this downward trend.
From school pen-pal programs that pair sixth graders with seniors to intergenerational facilities that let older adults and toddlers spend time together, the “grandfriend” concept is expanding worldwide. The Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 40 not-for-profit organizations in the Puget Sound area of Washington state, says that interactions among young people and older adults are crucial to reducing depression, relieving boredom and improving health—for both generations.
The Intergenerational Learning Center at Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle, for example, offers daycare for children 6 weeks to 5 years old. Four program areas offer children the opportunity to visit with nursing home residents, and the Intergenerational Family Room provides a shared space for residents and children to participate in special activities and form relationships. In Washington, D.C., the DC Office on Aging and the DC Public Schools Office of Early Childhood Education have a joint partnership designed to bring together senior citizens and early childhood students.
If you’re interested in connecting with children in your area, there are many different ways to do it. You can become involved with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; contact your local school district, grandparent networks, or nursing homes to determine which programs exist in your area; or even take the Gen2Gen Summer Challenge to help nurture a young person.
Experience matters. Grandfriends can make a difference—and you can become one today.
“'Grandfriend' pen-pal program joins Colman-Egan 6th graders with area seniors,” KSFY staff, KSFY.com, May 5, 2017.
Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors