Intergenerational activities are exactly what the name suggests: activities with participants from multiple generations. They can be between family members, like grandparents and their grandchildren, or strangers, such as nursing home residents and high school students in a community service program. The best parts about intergenerational activities are that everyone benefits from them and they can be fun for all involved.
It’s not just older adults’ well-being that improves from intergenerational activities; everyone benefits from them. Research shows that older adults receive a boost in mental health as well as other cognitive benefits; depending on the activity, older generations can also learn a new skill from younger generations, such as becoming more proficient with a new technology like a phone or computer.
Young people meanwhile get the chance to see aging up close, which can help them better understand the process and dispel stereotypes they have about it. Additionally, they may learn a different skill from the older groups, such as traditional baking techniques, sewing patterns, or knitting techniques. What’s most important is that all age groups—from older adults to their children and grandchildren—can gain a sense of purpose and improve their intergenerational relationships.
You can engage in various activities with your aging loved ones on your own, or you can participate in programs that their senior care community offers.
Socialization is one of the largest benefits of these activities for everyone involved. Fun activities for fostering intergenerational relationships include the following:
Arts and crafts allow people of all ages to let their imaginations run wild. Creative activities suited for all ages include drawing and painting. For older children and adolescents, a suitable activity could be learning to knit or crochet from an older adult.
Games are a great way to foster good communication skills and intergenerational relationships. If you’re visiting older relatives at a senior care facility, ask them about their favorite card games or board games. You can play them one week and then bring your favorite game next week. This way, everyone learns how to play something new.
Another option is to bring your kids along to game night at the local senior center if there is no minimum age requirement. Even if you don’t have relatives there, older participants will still love to see children visiting.
Young children have a lot of energy, and older adults need to make time for physical activity. One way to address both of these issues is to participate in activities that incorporate physical activity, such as playing Simon Says or going on walks together. If your loved one is able, swimming is another possibility. It’s not only tons of fun for children, but is also a low-impact activity that’s easier on older joints.
Scrapbooking is a creative activity that allows older adults to pass down stories to future generations while giving younger people a family keepsake to cherish for years to come.
Nobody cooks quite like grandma; capitalize on that by cooking or baking with older relatives. You can make this activity extra fun by making everything entirely from scratch—no cheating and using store-bought instant mixes!
Have older adults read a picture book to children visiting a local senior center—both age groups will have tons of fun.
If your older relative is able, why not take them on an outing to a local museum? It will be a great learning experience for all involved and will give your loved one a welcome change of scenery.
Creating genealogy charts allows all participants to learn research skills together while also letting older generations reminisce about people they grew up with. It also means oral family histories are passed down to younger generations.
Younger generations can learn a lot from their elders, but the reverse is also true. To switch things up, aim for a mix of activities where the roles of mentor and mentee fluctuate. For example, younger people can act as mentors by teaching older adults how to use newer technology. On the other hand, older people can act as mentors by tutoring grade school and high school students with subject material they’re familiar with.
From fostering relationships to encouraging positive communication to boosting the self-esteem of all participants, people of all ages can benefit from intergenerational activities, not just older adults. Family members can plan their own activities when they visit relatives in senior living communities, such as grandkids playing cards with their grandparents, or they can rely on the retirement communities themselves to host events. Either way, the positive effects of these activities make participation worth prioritizing.
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