If any of you have watched the channel 4 documentary ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ you will have seen how beneficial intergenerational relationships can be.
For young children, spending time with the elderly can build self – esteem and promote friendships. They experience increased attention and are given the opportunity to develop social and emotional skills.
With the modern family not living in such close proximity as days gone by it can also help to provide intergenerational relationships for those children that live far from grandparents.
For the elderly, spending time around toddlers has many positives. Research has shown that it can improve moods, mobility and memory. Increased social interaction is also linked to a reduced risk of disease in the elderly as well as giving them a greater sense of value.
So how do you and your child get involved? There are many ways.
My own little one is fortunate enough to go to a nursery that champions such intergenerational activity. Once a week the pre – school group visits the local care home for a few hours. Some days they sing nursery rhymes and draw pictures, on other occasions they have had puppet shows and only recently there was a live band. The sight of my 3 year old holding hands and dancing with an eighty year old is quite wonderful.
A concept which is seen more so in mainland Europe but can now be found in a few locations in the UK is the combining of nursery and care home.
One such establishment is Apples and Honey Nursey in South London. This intergenerational care home was set up in 2017 and was the first of it’s kind in the UK.
However, we don’t all live in South London. If your child’s nursery does not currently have a connection with a local care home it may be worth making a few enquiries.
There are also charities such as Contact the Elderly. Contact the Elderly work towards combating loneliness and social isolation. Each month they set up Sunday afternoon tea parties across the UK for people aged 75 and over. By volunteering as a tea party host you can become a part of their fantastic work.
With Age Uk you can volunteer to befriend someone in your community. The charity will match you with an elderly person local to you. From there you will visit and keep regular contact whilst building towards lasting companionship.
Of course you do not have to go through a charity. Make contact with one of your elderly neighbours. During winter it can be difficult for some elderly people to get out and about. A visit from yourself and your child could make such a difference.
You don’t have to visit a retirement home via your child’s nursery, make enquiries on your own behalf. There may be some residents that have no local family and would welcome someone to talk to (or play with).
However contact is made enjoy the gift of seeing your little one develop a wonderful relationship with a new friend and enjoy the knowledge that you could be making a huge difference to an elderly person in many ways.