Intergenerational Programs are a way to bring youth and seniors together for a wide variety of activities. This can be done on a wide scale such as having a school come to an assisted living facility or on a smaller scale like having your own young family members do activities with your older loved ones. These programs can include a wide variety of different activities and can be done with seniors of all types, including physically disabled or cognitively impaired seniors.
Intergenerational and youth focused programs provide the opportunity to enrich participants lives and help address vital social and community issues while building on the positive resources that the young and old have to offer one another and their communities. Research suggests that those living with dementia who participate in these programs show a decrease in social isolation and an increase in self esteem and sense of belonging. Some programs can specifically target the youth and can help them have a deeper understanding of dementia itself and the older adult experience, as well as provide support for youth, depending on seniors they are paired with.
These programs may include arts and crafts, sports, or mentorship depending on the age and condition of all participants. These programs are usually built around everyone’s strengths making everyone included feel a sense of accomplishment and optimism. Research around the pairing of youth with those with dementia has shown that the elderly with dementia thrive after these meetings. Not only do they have less depression, but they have done better with memory tests, activity, and mobility.
Research has also shown that the young who participate in a regular intergenerational program look forward to the program days just as much as their senior counterparts. Attendance and enthusiasm have been recorded at a high on days when program days are happening. These programs can provide children with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose, which is especially meaningful for those youth who may be wanting in that area. It also can help younger kids develop a sense of empathy, an important part of character building as they grow older. When children are exposed to older adults with disabilities at a very age, it teaches them to look at somebody who may be in a wheelchair, have dementia, or have any other impairment and not think of them differently or less than.
These programs are also a wonderful thing for caregivers, whether that be you, an assisted living facility, or a memory care. Having the senior visit with a young friend can give the caregiver a rest from their duties for a little while and can also provide a wonderful talking point for later! At Iris Memory Care, our team LOVES when kiddos come to play! It brings such a sense of fun and excitement to the community.
Now that we have talked about all the benefits of these programs, we thought we would give you a few activity ideas in case you wanted to incorporate this within your own family. There are so many different ideas and ways to bring the old and young together but here are just a few simple tips!
- Spending a few hours at a playground.
- Engaging in tabletop activities such as Connect Four or dominoes.
- Head to a local library for a story hour.
- Plant some flowers or herbs for an herb garden.
- Go to a park and feed the ducks.
- Arts and crafts such as painting or coloring.
- Card games or board games.
- Games that incorporate physical activity, such as Simon Says.
- Going for a walk.
- Cooking (may need to be supervised depending on the age of participants.
- Visiting a museum or a zoo.
- Try a fun science experiment.
- Go out for some ice cream.
It is important to remember that activities may need to be modified or completely changed accordingly for younger kids or those seniors who have cognitive or physical impairments. For example, cooking classes may not be appropriate for young children paired with those with dementia, unless everything is precut and able to eat before being cooked. A fun solution for that scenario would be pudding or no bake cookies! This program only works if both the old and the young BOTH feel a sense of accomplishment at the end. Making these activities doable for both parties involved is the key to success.