We stood on the porch huddled together in the dark. A soft glow from the open door fell on the faces of both young and old who were standing together singing songs. It was an annual outing of junior high and high school kids singing Christmas carols for the elderly in the neighborhood. As a school counselor, I longed for my inner-city students to have opportunities like this to interact with older people, to experience an intergenerational community.
Kids need to intermingle with older generations but often don’t relate with people outside of their immediate circles of family, schools, clubs or sports. In the transient, instant, here-and-now world of 2014, giving teens opportunities to interact with older generations is a great investment and learning opportunity. There’s wisdom, experience, and knowledge to gain from older generations. When I taught US History, my high school students interviewed people from the Great Depression era. It never failed to be a memorable experience for the kids. There’s intrinsic energy when old and young give and receive from each another.
If your teen doesn’t have regular opportunities to interact with older adults, here are eight ideas to get them connected.
- Bake cookies or make crafts and deliver them to a local nursing home.
- Become pen-pals with residents at a local nursing home. Your kids can write letters to specific residents, building a relationship with them. Once or twice a year, visit the resident and maintain an ongoing relationship.
- Invite older adults in your neighborhood over for a family dinner.
- Volunteer to help older adults in your neighborhood or community – raking leaves, mowing lawns, or watering flowers,
- Do a family research project and connect with elderly family members. Write letters, email, call or visit extended family members, including grandparents.
- If you’re part of a faith community, visit with older adults during intergenerational activities.
- Contact your local council on aging and find out if there are volunteer opportunities your family or teens can be a part of.
- Spend more time with older adults in your own family.
As a parent, my teens have been blessed by opportunities to interact and build relationships with older adults, including grandparents and great-grandparents. Multigenerational communities are honored and valued in other cultures and past generations. We need to be intentional about not losing the benefit and blessings of these relationships with today’s teens.
What are ways your teens have connected with older adults? What benefits have your kids received from these relationships?
Disclaimer: Activities should be used with careful judgment with parental supervision or supervision with a trusted adult.