Thoughts from Life Enrichment
The Many Benefits of Intergenerational Play
"You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation".- Plato
At the Osher Inn, we have embraced the joys and benefits of "intergeneration play" for years, thanks in great part to Kim Levesque, the Director of Laugh & Learn Preschool in Wells. For over five years, Kim has been visiting The Cedars with her preschoolers in tow to play, create, sing and laugh with our residents.
The benefits of play for both the young and old have been demonstrated through multiple studies. Children enjoy greater creativity, better language skills and social development when they experience interactive play with adults (Fromberg and Bergen, 1998). And for the older adults, play has shown to promote relaxation, reduce stress and proved perspective to the demands of life (Generations United, 2007).
The children from Laugh & Learn have interacted in a variety of ways during their visits. Activities have included making greeting cards and delivering them to the Neighborhoods, baking cookies, singing to the residents, and performing a fashion show. In addition, the children learned about hearing aids, pulse oximeters, walkers, canes and wheelchairs. Most importantly, however, they've made some very special friendships. During this time when families are spread across countries and continents, these preschoolers are given the opportunity to be surrogate grandchildren and, in doing so, are given the chance to give and receive the joys and benefits of play."
I feel so very fortunate to be able to work with the folks at the Cedars, and see first hand the importance this interaction has on both generations. At Laugh & Learn we have a resident "Grampa" who lives upstairs. "Grampa" is my father, who suffers from dementia. The children understand his need for a nurse in the mornings, love to "knock on his wall" to announce his lunch is waiting, and delight in bringing him a cupcake or special treat. He in turn lights up when we come up stairs, and the highlight of his days is often answering the chorus' of "Hi Grampa" as we pass by. The children have learned acceptance, tolerance, respect and the sheer joy of making someone happy. They have also learned tolerance and understanding as I need to remind him to shut the door or go back inside...."his memory just doesn't work so well anymore".
We all want our children (and grandchildren) to grow up to be empathetic, compassionate humans. We want them to honor their elders, understand differences, and respect diversity. With our intergenerational experiences- we are given the unique opportunity to "teach", and let both our "older friends" and younger ones- teach us.
Last Monday we went back to The Cedars to do some singing, have an Easter Egg hunt, and make a bunny project. We were joined by Holicost survivors, authors, the original model for Lord & Taylor, business owners, teachers, doctors, nurses, and even a Rabbi- I looked around the room and was in awe of the knowledge and leadership these "old friends" brought to our table. Sitting cheek to cheek with these people were bright and eager preschoolers- full of unconditional love. It did not matter what they did years ago, or what they will do tomorrow.....for this moment in time they were working together on the same project. Enjoying each others company. The smiles on both generations were enough to melt your heart. Going up there is one of my favorite trips- for as I tell the children "I think this must be how Santa Claus feels...making people smile just makes your heart feel like its going to burst with joy".