The grandchildren were coming over. The smell of cookies was already coming from the oven. Paints and other art supplies covered the kitchen table. It was watercolor day! Grandpa’s love of art was an inspiration to all. Even Grandma joined in. The door burst open and happy voices came floating in. Grandma grabbed her phone and captured the happy moments in pictures. These were moments they never wanted to forget.
Keeping mentally active using brain activities is a huge topic. Everything from brain games to self-education is all the hype these days. And, with reason. Science shows that keeping the brain active is very healthy in the aging process. And while challenging the mind is a good thing, there is another element that can be added brain health. The emotional element. Connecting with other people and helping others is something that warms the heart and brings about joy. Plus, it can be so satisfying to see young people grow. Intergenerational activities can be easily overlooked and yet majorly beneficial to seniors and younger loved ones. Do you have grandchildren, neighbor children, or young people at church you know that could benefit from some elder wisdom and bonding time? Putting time into nurturing and caring for younger generations can be highly mind stimulating and emotionally rewarding for all involved. Retirement brings about extra time to plan some fun. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Reading together. If you have younger grandchildren, consider collecting some books for their age level from the library. Plan a weekly reading day and spend time together. Or, have older children read to you. There are volunteer programs available at local libraries or after school programs. Check and see if there are any available programs in your area for seniors to read to children, or visa versa. Some nursing homes offer programs giving seniors the opportunity to be read to by children. During the Covid-19 era, this may be something to plan for in the future as current opportunities may be limited.
Teaching. If you are still active and mobile, volunteering to teach Sunday school or Vacation Bible School for kids in your community may be interesting for you. If you would prefer something less involving, helping out with snacks or games during these events or assisting a Sunday school teacher may be more doable. Being around children and helping them learn is exhilarating and mind stimulating.
Connecting During Covid
Covid-19 has changed so much of the way we interact with others. Hopefully it is a temporary time of social distancing. In the meantime, technology has made it possible to keep connected. Try using facetime or a similar app when talking to family and friends. Children especially love facetime!
Cooking together. Many younger people would benefit from learning more about nutrition and food preparation. Or perhaps you would like to explore food more yourself. Invite your grandkids over and involve them! Many senior living apartments offer kitchens. Make use of your kitchen! Pick out a recipe together, go shopping and prepare the meal together. You would be surprised how much conversation this activity can stimulate. Create memories together!
Yes, you can combine brain games and younger people! Seniors, children and teenagers alike can find games to be enjoyed by all. Don’t worry about the latest and greatest technology kids are used to these days. Bring back old-fashioned fun. Teach a child how to play chess. Find some card games. Prepare some fun snacks and make it a weekly event for the whole family!
Outings. Explore together. If you are still mobile, check out things to do in Albuquerque or perhaps even Santa Fe. If you are interested in history or cultural events, make these interests come alive for your younger friends or family, whether your children or grandchildren. Don’t be worried about trying to find something they are already interested in. You can help them develop an appreciation for the things you are excited about. Perhaps its music. Take them to a concert or theater event. Look for more ways to develop an interest in a younger person to share your passion. New Mexico has much to offer. Cultural events, historical sites, nature, the arts and so much more. Sharing an interest with a grandchild or younger friend can be so inspiring and rewarding for both of you.
Intergenerational activities can give you so much. Whether it takes you outdoors or brings warmth and laughter into your home, the memories you will create and the lasting difference you can make in a child’s life are monumental. Perhaps you can think of other ways to connect with your family or friends. Look for opportunities. Enjoy the energy and life of younger people and create the environment to allow this to stimulate your mind and warm your heart.