Kweli Archie and Amy Hoffman
Amy: I was recently with friends who were discussing how much joy they receive from spending time with their grandchildren. I mentioned how important my Grams had been in my life; she lived with us and pretty much raised me, and I was definitely her favorite grandchild. Another person raved about how he would frequently go to “Camp Grandma” and about the memories he had from those visits.
Kweli: “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child” best describes the way my sister’s three children are being raised. Under one roof, there are three generations working together to care for my sister’s three children; their parents (my sister and brother-in-law), maternal grandmother (Mom Mom) and maternal great grandmother (Granny). My sister and her husband work very long days in high demanding corporate jobs that keep them away from home. As a result, they needed daily support to meet the needs of their three children. During the week, Mom Mom and Granny provide the extra TLC (tender, love and care) and supervision essential to maintaining a safe and happy home.
Mom Mom and Granny have been a part of the “village” raising my sister’s three children since 2000. 19 years of this intergenerational relationship has been beneficial for the whole family;
• After retirement, Mom Mom (75) and Granny (94) are staying active and healthy.
• While raising a family, my sister and brother-in-law have been able to pursue their professional careers.
• At an early age, my sister’s three children have developed compassion and respect for the elderly.
In addition to our personal experiences, there are many ways that young children and older adults benefit from spending time with each other. Social interaction in general has been linked to decreased loneliness and delayed mental decline in older adults. When that interaction includes children, the amount of smiling, laughter, and conversation increases for the adults, and the children develop vocabulary and learn social skills. Many older adults want to be contributing members of society, and engaging with children gives them the opportunity to do so while focusing on living in the moment. Some children do not have access to their grandparents, and some older adults do not have regular interactions with their grandchildren, and these interactions can help to fill that void in all their lives.
Some intergenerational programs exist where children have daily and weekly opportunities to engage with older adults in retirement communities, nursing homes, and community centers; some sites have shared care facilities as well. While it is not possible for all early learning programs to have the same access, it is possible to invite retirees in to read to a class or to adopt a classroom. If you are within walking distance of a retirement community, take a trip to drop off cards, sing songs, or visit the residents a few times per year.
Do the children in your program have the opportunity to engage with older adults during program hours? Leave a comment so we can hear about your experiences.