A while back I read an article about mixing a child day care facility and a retirement home. My first thought was oh my God how terrifying for those retired people. It’s been a while, but the article suggested that both the children and the retiree’s benefit from the relationship. (Now that I think about it, it might have been a documentary not an article at all. The mind is slipping today.)
Shortly after that experience I noticed a retirement home in my neighborhood that integrated an onsite daycare center for employees. So I know that it does happen, and must have some good results because the daycare center is still there (15 years later.) I have a friend who is in that particular retirement home. He said that the children and the retirees mix on a voluntary basis twice a day and it’s lovely. To have a child to read to, or color with, or help make an art project. The sessions are short about a half an hour, but it is a great way to continue to give to a younger generation.
In this documentary or article I think it was a documentary, they also mixed a college dorm and a retirement home. About 30 college students, and 50 retirees lived together and both the college students and the retiree’s benefited from eating meals together and visiting in the common areas.
Research from Stanford supports the idea that aging adults could play a critical role in younger individuals and that younger generations could benefit from a relationship with older adults. I would like to suggest that society could benefit from intentionally forming generational relationships outside the family. Too often we help those who are just like us, but we need to help those who are different. This will increase understanding and help bolster valuable relationships for the future.
As the population ages we will need individuals who understand and will advocate for us. AARP is one of the best advocate organizations in the country, however we need leaders who are sympathetic and that sympathy grows through relationship building from an early age.
Consider listening to a first grader read once a week, or being a play ground volunteer once a week or a crossing guard once a week. You’ll fall in love with those little ones. Little ones not your thing? You can try volunteering at a college library or tutoring your favorite subject. Just get involved with your young community. Be a hero to the young in all of us. Remember you have a lot to offer.