In today’s world, we see a great decline in multi-generational families. Single parent units are more common and fewer extended families live together. Compared to a couple of generations ago many children and teenagers have less or no contact or relationship with grandparents or other older people. People also travel and relocate more and may live further away from each other.
We did a wonderful collaboration with a local school and the nursing home last spring. Students aged 15-16 visited us for an hour of activity with our residents. We had 3 students per session and a total of 35. All students had to contribute something to the session. Some brought art-work, some read poetry or played instruments. They were expected to join in with our exercises, quizzes, and other activities and to interact with our residents.
Their teacher had prepared them for the different personalities they might encounter as some of the residents have dementia. Before their first visit, she got them to write down what they thought it would be like to visit a nursing home and after the visit, they wrote a reflection about their experience.
Many of the students were very quiet or shy when they arrived and had preconceived ideas about the capabilities of older people in general but it was amazing to see how their confidence grew and they started to interact, even in the short time of an hour. The realization that our residents had stories, smiled and laughed and really welcomed the students sank in and gave the students confidence to interact in a meaningful way.
A student's reflection
Below is the conclusion from one girl’s reflection (age 15) on her time spent with us. She talks at the beginning of her reflection about how much she enjoyed the chat and was amazed how interested the residents were in her and her life and ends her essay with:
“Being honest, I was so afraid of going over to the nursing home. I didn’t know what to say or do or what to do in case something went wrong. What will they think of me?’ I asked myself several times on the way over. But as the hour passed I realized there was nothing to worry about. These [people] were not any different to me. They were whole-hearted human beings that just wanted someone to talk to. They don’t judge you one bit... I’ll never forget my trip to the nursing home because it was an eye-opener for me. We’re all the same but different. That will be us at some stage. It was an important experience in my life that I will cherish until the day that I’m sitting in a chair in my local nursing home talking to students or singing with them in a Carol Concert. And also, I learned communicating with elder people is good for both of us and them... It was nice to be in different scenery, and I hope I made an impact on their day and hopefully maybe even their lives. Because I know for sure they made one on mine.”
Our residents love to see children and young people coming to visit. It brightens the day. A good example of an intergenerational activity.
Can you brighten the day of an older person this week?
Activity Coordinator & CQO at Maria’s Place