We often get asked why our memory care communities organize many of our activities to include local school children. It’s an easy question to answer. Intergenerational activities are beneficial for everyone involved. For our residents, it gives them a chance to connect with young people in ways that sharpen their senses and the opportunity to mentor them with advice and guidance. For the young people, it puts them into contact with aging individuals who have a wealth of stories to share, providing a window into an earlier era. For both groups it creates an enriched experience with many unexpected surprises and insights.
In home settings, however, in an effort to be protective, parents may be reluctant to expose a child to a family member with dementia. This is unfortunate in that children are much better able to cope with diverse situations than parents realize. If explained with love, these interactions can broaden their sphere of experience and provide them with an excellent opportunity to gain a better understanding of dementia.
Here are some activities that we’ve found to be especially beneficial in connecting individuals with dementia to young people:
- Reading books together. Our residents enjoy visiting local schools and reading to young students. By doing so, they are giving the gift of their time, sharpening their own reading skills and sharing the fun of the stories.
- Doing a craft. Recently at our Harvester Place community, local children worked with residents to make unique dog toys for local shelters. Not only was it a purposeful activity, but encouraged conversation and connection.
- Looking at old photographs. Sharing old photographs brings added awareness to both young and old, often jogging a memory or two in the process.
- Listening to music. What we’ve found especially fun is when residents and young people each share samples of the music they love. Young people are often fascinated by sounds of the big bands era or early rock and roll.
While the pandemic caused us to curtail our usual busy schedule of activities, below are some amazing images of some of the intergenerational activities our residents have enjoyed over the years.
Gardening with Community House campers at Harvester Place.
Grace Point Place held a kite making and flying event!
Chelsea Place residents and children enjoy a game of croquet!
If you are caring for a loved one with dementia and haven’t yet done so, consider adding some visits from younger family members to their activity schedule. A short visit from a child or two can literally transform everyone’s day. Make sure the children have a basic understanding of the limitations of the loved one and that they are old enough to be respectful of their situation.
We all look forward to bringing back our full schedule of intergenerational programs at Anthem Memory Care. Young people never fail to bring joy, hope and lots of smiles to the faces of our residents. And the children always leave eager to come back again soon.
(The top image is of a resident of Chelsea Place Memory Care in Aurora, Colorado, during a visit to a local fair.