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Category: Provider Voices

Building Cross-Generational Connections with Grand-Friends

Making Grand-Friends

The concept of “non-family intergenerational interactions” is centered around the simple idea that old and young can bring new energy, knowledge and enthusiasm to each others’ lives. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a relationship with a retirement community, where several of their residents would travel to our preschool regularly to read and play with the children. Since restrictions have been lifted, the Caterpillar Clubhouse Nature Preschool children have been traveling to the retirement community instead, every other week, to visit their grand-friends.

I was in awe that the simple presence of our preschoolers made such a difference in these grand-friends lives. I noticed how the kids completely accepted the physical and mental differences around them with such natural grace. And gained a sense of connection across the generations. Too often we underestimate the power of a hug, smile and children’s laughter…. I believe in the respect and dignity of life for people of all ages, young and old. This core belief is the thread interwoven through the fabric of our program.

What the groups do when they meet can be as relaxed as playing with play dough, a balloon game or reading a book together.

Valuing Older People

Older adults have a need to contribute to the next generation, and that doing so can give older people feelings of accomplishment or success, rather than stagnation, as they age. Intergenerational activities show elders that they are valued as individuals that still possess lifelong skills, rather than being passive recipients of care. One lady who attended the care facility told me that you don’t think about your age when you are in the company of young children. The little ones brought a new sense of vibrancy and fun to the center, and the focus was no longer on watching time pass but on living in the moment.

These days traditional families are separated by distance, time and lack of understanding between generations, but programs that bring children and older adults together could change the whole of society’s outlook.

Early Childhood Education is about building relationships. Research shows that students who have healthy intergenerational relationships have better self-confidence as well as a greater sense of empathy and tolerance. Children also develop a positive sense of aging and the interactions between generations reduce fear of older adults. Relationships between the children and elders also reduce fear of various abilities and disabilities.

Quote of the day: Grand-friend: I didn’t even know I needed that hug until I just received it.

Preschool students, Primrose residents find friendship in one another | News |

This post was written by Stephanie McKinstry of Caterpillar Clubhouse Nature Preschool in Kokomo, Indiana

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