Relationships between the elderly and the younger generation make us feel connected in several ways. They make us feel linked not only to each other, but also to something bigger, to the past and to the future. Thus, this connection leads to many benefits for all generations.
According to Erik Erikson, one of the first psychologists to describe social development across a lifetime, connections between youths and an older generation can give a sense of fulfillment to the elderly. Intergenerational relationships can invigorate and energize older adults as well as help reduce the likelihood of depression and loneliness. These relationships can also aide in cognitive stimulation and provide an opportunity for the older adult to learn new skills.
Many activities help build and strengthen intergenerational relationships – storytelling, talking about ethnic heritage, culture and sharing ethnic customs – helps keep family stories and history alive. Reading to each other, telling jokes, scrapbooking, putting a puzzle together, doing crosswords and introducing technology into the life of older adults are other activities that can help connect the older generation with youths.
A Greater Sense of Fulfillment for the Elderly
While sometimes it’s not always possible for families to be in close proximity, it is essential for seniors to connect with the young. At San Simeon by the Sound, many residents experience the power of intergenerational relationships with our caregivers by sharing their hobbies and discussing today’s current events. Much of San Simeon’s staff has become family to those who are in need of the bonds of intergenerational relationships.
There is often a back-and-forth reciprocity between all generations – not only is intergenerational relationships beneficial for the elderly – but it also helps fill a void for children who do not have grandparents. Many older adults can be a tremendous resource for youths as they tell them about history and times past, and share a lifetime of accumulated wisdom. The physical limitations that come with getting older can actually help to cement the relationship between the young and old, and the physiological changes that accompany old age can be useful fundamentals for valuable intergenerational connections.
Older people taught the young how to be and how to become – helping them socialize and giving them emotional support by teaching empathy and character. Therefore, grandparents are often referred to as the monarchy of their family because they have years of experience and can share their knowledge, perspectives and key civic values with younger people.
Children, in turn, can be a source of joy for elders, and provide assistance with many simple tasks. Studies have shown when older adults regularly interact with youths their mental health improves. Studies have also proven that intergenerational bonding activities helps people who have dementia as they perform better on memory tests and experience effects that are more positive than in non-intergenerational activities.
Adults who experienced close intergenerational interaction tend to be happier with their present life and more hopeful for the future, reducing feelings of sadness and increasing their self-worth and self-esteem.