The interaction between kids and seniors is almost always positive, especially in the right setting and with the right instruction. For seniors in assisted living, the benefits of intergenerational programs are many. The kids benefit too.
That being said, bringing a group of 15 preschoolers, third graders or junior high school students to an assisted living community, guiding them to the common area where residents have gathered, and telling them, “go talk to an older person” will likely not produce said benefits.
To prevent shyness and discomfort on the part of the students and seniors alike, and to minimize the chances of either group being overwhelmed by the direct one-on-one attention, it’s essential for activities directors in assisted living to have a plan, to give clear instructions and establish the purpose for the interaction.
- For an ongoing IG project or initiative, pair students with seniors for tutoring or mentoring. Try to match students and seniors by subject needs (for tutoring) and common interests (for mentoring).
- Present a current events topic to the group at large, then divide the students and seniors into groups (rather than pairs, which could be intimidating for some) to discuss their perspectives, based on their life histories.
- Have a party, or have the students organize a senior prom. A social event may help ease the nervousness on the part of the seniors and students.
Find intergenerational research, resources, initiatives, fact sheets, articles, educational programs, activities and project ideas here, via the Family Caregiving eXtension of Penn State University. You can also check out our intergenerational-themed blogs here.