Building a generational bridge

Sometimes the youngest among us can solve big problems.

One such problem is social isolation among older adults. It is estimated that 43 percent of seniors experience some form of social isolation and this percentage is expected to continue to grow as Baby Boomers age over the next two decades. Regardless of whether seniors are living independently at home or living in a community setting with other seniors, they are often isolated from the fast paced world around them because of cultural changes and limits or constraints they face.

In an effort to keep social isolation from happening, intergenerational programs have been developed to help bridge the generational gaps between the young and old.

Teaming up to bring this initiative to life are local directors Mary Carter, Georgia Pre-K Director of Hudson Bridge Day Care in Stockbridge, and Shauna Maddox, Executive Director of GoldenCrest Assisted Living at Eagles Landing in Stockbridge. Four- and five-year-old Pre-K children join the seniors at GoldenCrest for a couple of hours of interaction with one another.

Both directors have been creating these events together for the past few years and agree it requires a lot of teamwork from their staff, but is worth every minute of planning and preparation to see the joy and smiles on the faces of the children and seniors.

It is a much-anticipated time for the children as they prepare for the travel by bus from their classroom to the senior home. Most recently an event took place just before Valentine’s when 66 Pre-K children ages 4 and 5 made cards and dressed in festive colors for a special trip to GoldenCrest.

One by one, the children stepped from the bus with their teachers and walked through the doors to the staircase inside and sat quietly for instructions from Ms. Maddox. After careful reminders of being courteous and gentle with the seniors, it was time to go in smaller groups down the halls to see the grandmas and granddads, waiting in their apartment rooms with eager anticipation of little smiling faces that present creative valentine cards made especially for them.

These moments are simply magical and touch your heart in a very special way that validates the importance of keeping generations connected.

There is no doubt the seniors truly appreciate these young children coming to their door to celebrate a few moments of small talk and smiles. What a great dose of spiritual medicine this seems to be for the elderly, and a perfect opportunity for the children to be tested in their ability to be polite, quiet, orderly and respectful. “It is a great learning experience for our children and a proud moment for their teachers,” Carter says.

Once the meet-and-greet is over, it’s on to the large living area on the main floor which has been set up for an arts and craft activity. Joining the children are some of the seniors who want to participate as well. With their walkers and wheelchairs the seniors are eagerly invited by the children to join in and help them complete a craft. Initially the children are spread around the tables working independently or in pairs, but soon, like a magnet, the children gravitate to the seniors and huddle around them, asking questions, making comments and giggling over their creations. In the midst of this special time together, the positive impact for both young and old is an immeasurable experience full of magical moments.

At the end of this little journey, the children are given a little bag of popcorn and beverage, then it’s on the bus to head back to their school where they will continue to revisit their journey and tell their teachers and parents about what they learned and enjoyed.  At GoldenCrest it’s gotten quiet and nearing lunch time, so the seniors begin gathering at the dining hall. As they wait for the doors to open, you can see them smiling and hear them talking about how wonderful it was to see and spend time

with those beautiful little children. In fact, you can hear one elderly lady say with a big smile, “this has been the best day of my life.”

This day has indeed been a wonderful day for everyone!