It’s back to school time! While this may not mean much to seniors or anyone who doesn’t have school-aged children, it can still present a new season of opportunities, learning, and growth.
Classes in session mean that clubs and organizations for children and young adults are also back in full swing. These can include girl and boy scout troops, church youth groups, after-school programs, high school clubs, or even university organizations looking to give back to local care centers.
Benefits abound for both parties involved. Opportunities for seniors and youth groups to interact give younger generations the chance to serve and give back to their elders and learn from them, while seniors get to connect with the outside community and meet new people. This can be especially useful for care center residents who don’t have local family or friends.
Here are a few activity ideas:
1. Fun but simple crafts
Working on arts and crafts projects are a great way for kids and seniors to engage in quality time while channelling their focus into something fun and creative. Just remember that many seniors don’t have nimble fingers or steady hands, and the inability to complete small tasks can prove frustrating to some. Choose feasible craft projects.
Many care centers already have bingo nights, but it doesn’t hurt to put a new spin on this classic game. Incorporating trivia or festive themes based on the season can add an educational twist that kids and seniors alike can enjoy and benefit from. If your budget allows, consider adding small prizes for the kids to hand out to the winners.
Some care center activity departments host cooking and baking events, or even have their own baking club. While this may require extra assistance and supervision for safety, having seniors teach the kids how to bake some of their favorite recipes—or anything relatively simple and feasible—may be nostalgic for kids who have lost a dearly loved grandparent, or for residents whose own grandchildren live far away. Alternatively, have the kids bake their own treats and distribute them to the residents.
4. Kindergarten skills training
This could also apply to elementary school children of varying ages. Teaching very young children simple skills and/or preparing them for school and new phases of their education can be fun and rewarding for both young and old. A game of Simon Says can teach kids to listen more carefully. Depending on the age range, maybe split everyone into teams and play educational trivia. The seniors and kids can work together to come up with answers. Click here for a few more simple games that seniors can play in a group with kids.
5. Game night
Games and puzzles can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and focusing on an objective can put both kids and seniors at ease while spending time together.
6. Seasonal Festivities
It’s no secret that the holidays can be emotionally difficult for people regardless of one’s age. That said, sometimes children can bring us peace and remind us of the simple holiday joys we may have forgotten over time. Christmas is the most obvious contender, but spreading cheer on less notable holidays can carry a positive impact as well. In the month of February, have the kids make homemade valentines to distribute to all the residents in the center. Maybe host a “Safe Treat” Halloween or fall festival event in which the kids can parade through the care center trick-or-treating. Even Veteran’s Day may be a good time for a care center visit, and an opportunity to talk to kids about our country’s history, and how to honor and thank those who have served.
There’s so much learning to be done in the classroom, but these experiences outside school—especially with other generations and those who may differ from us—can be especially formative in expanding perspectives and cultivating compassion in today’s children. Truly everyone has something to learn and something to teach—regardless of age. Above all else: be safe, be kind, and have fun!