The top retirement communities and senior placement centers are encouraging their residents to give back in heartwarming ways. Among the latest is passing along their wisdom and life experience to young children. A growing number of senior communities are working with children and volunteer organizations to bring the two together. And it turns out, it’s a perfect match.
Seeing young children with seniors may give us joy, but it’s not just for show. According to The Washington Post and a Generations United and Eisner Foundation 2018 study, children who spend time with adults with dementia develop social and emotional competencies, such as empathy, patience and problem-solving. Elderly residents benefited, too. According to the same study, seniors remained calmer, showed fewer signs of visible distress, and appeared more present and engaged, especially seniors patients with dementia.
What’s more, 97% of adults who participate in such programs said they felt happy, loved and needed. With health advancements and the senior population quickly growing (100 million U.S. men and women will be 65+ in 2060 according to a Population Reference Bureau estimate), putting together programs and activities that benefit everyone is becoming necessary and pressing.
Finally, researchers are becoming increasingly optimistic about brain elasticity. At one time, scientists believed our brains reached full growth, stopped, and adults inevitably lost brain cells and essential brain function over time. While that can and does happen, more and more studies show that brain elasticity is very, very real. Staying engaged, continuing to learn, and teaching others are all great ways seniors can keep their minds just as sharp as ever.
Assisted Living Communities Provide Opportunities For U.S. Youth
Even better, programs that match up kids with adults or encourage interaction with young Americans and the elderly are extremely varied. Programs range from day trips to allow seniors to help hold and care for babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NCIU), games, activities, and craft-making with toddlers and elementary school students, or even programs that place high school students as temporary workers or volunteers at senior placement centers. High school students are given practical jobs like helping serve food. These jobs teach responsibility, while also affording high school students regular interaction with residents.
Studies show that children and U.S. youth belong in senior placement centers! Whether they are playing, learning, or helping, these children provide undeniable benefits to seniors in terms of their mental and emotional well-being, and seniors give back by teaching and caring for them, too!