Bridging the Generation Gap
Developing connections between older people and very young children can benefit both the older people and the children. Two examples of how schemes promoting this have worked in practice are given below. Two groups of very young children have made regular care home visits to nursing homes or residential care homes for older adults.
Beckett Hall Day Nursery
Twice a month, children from the nursery visit Osbourne Court Care Home. They share various activities with the residents, who look forward to the visits and are always pleased to see the children. The care home manager says that the residents and the children interact well together and enjoy sharing activities such as baking, arts and crafts and singing and dancing.
Some of the older people are grandparents and have visits from family members, but others do not, so they really appreciate care home visits from the children. The children also benefit from connecting with the residents, especially those who do not have grandparents of their own. Seeing the children seems to bring the older people out of themselves, making them more interested and generally happier. They often talk about the visits for days afterwards.
Sometimes real friendships can be formed, and one little boy’s parents have requested that he continue to visit a particular resident he has befriended, even when he has moved up from the nursery.
Interacting with people of a different generation can be very valuable to both parties. The children benefit from the praise and feedback they receive from the care home residents, and the residents, who could be lonely and socially isolated, enjoy the interaction with the children. The children also learn about the differences between generations and about the world. They understand that sometimes they need to speak quietly, but sometimes it is necessary to speak more loudly if an older person is having difficulty hearing them. Their play also often reflects what they have learnt about the older generation, and their parents appreciate this extra aspect of social life they experience.
Little Owls is run by two childminders, Nat Jackson and Amanda Strong. They approached Home Meadow Care Home in Cambridge with their idea for visits by the children to the home, and now they visit each Monday, spending the whole day at the home. There are seven children at Little Owls, ranging from one to four years old.
The residential care home provides a dedicated room where the children can have their lunch and take a nap. Residents are able to visit as they like and are welcome to join in with activities such as singing, dancing and arts and crafts.
Both the residents and the children benefit from these visits, and seeing the children gives many of the residents who are living with dementia a great deal of happiness. Some of the children and residents have formed friendships, and Mondays have become the highlight of the week for them.
The children benefit by gaining knowledge about the older generation and learning about different people who make up the community. They often talk about the people in the home to their parents when they get back, and they really enjoy their visits.
Both these schemes bridge the gap between old and young people, fostering a greater understanding between the generations.