Ever since I was a little girl, I have appreciated time spent with my elders and the wisdom that they bestowed upon me. My grandmother taught me the importance of being involved in the community and the value of building relationships with those with more life experience than me. During school breaks, I accompanied her to the senior living facility near our home, and we visited with the residents. Whether it was playing a game of bingo, reading poetry or simply chatting about life in general, I always had an incredible time and made new friends.
Some educational institutions now recognize the importance of the lessons that my grandmother instilled in me as a child. These schools have partnered with senior living facilities and paired students with elders. The advantages of bridging the gap between the younger and the older generations are truly immeasurable and life-changing. Here are just a few examples.
*Improving Reading and Language Skills
The older a person is the longer her list of beloved books. It's great to get book recommendations from your elders. Reading together is even better. Younger children can benefit from reading with their elders, because they can practice and be given a helpful hand if something difficult comes along.
Being a pen pal with an elderly friend is another great way to improve your language skills. You can swap stories about the past, present or future, creating a beautiful new friendship and story together in the process.
One of my favorite programs is the Speaking Exchange project. This project virtually connects students in Brazil with senior citizens in the U.S. over video chat to practice their English skills. The power of technology and the internet make possible this amazing opportunity to develop relationships across the globe.
Despite the opportunities technology offers, computers and smartphones can be quite frustrating to our elders, many of whom have never used these types of devices before. Younger generations have grown up using these technologies, so it's second nature to them. Elders can learn a thing or two from children and young adults when it comes to computers and smartphones. Basic skills kids can teach their elders include creating an email account, sending emails and practicing typing and texting skills. Once they've gained these skills, they can then be exposed to the wealth of information that the internet provides -- but more importantly, they can connect with family and friends on different social media sites.
Overall, helping our elders become savvier with technology is beneficial not only because it helps them keep up with these changing times but also because it connects them to others in ways that seemed impossible in their days.
The great thing about friendship is that it comes in all shapes sizes. It's not unconventional for young people to befriend elders. In fact, it is one of the sweetest types of friendships to have. One of my favorite examples is that of 4-year-old Norah Wood and 82-year-old Dan Peterson. The two met in a grocery, and Norah decided she wanted to include the man in their family activities. Peterson, who had been in a deep depression since losing his wife, was touched. Despite their large age gap, they found friendship in each other. This young girl helped a heartbroken elderly man to begin to heal.
There are many practical advantages to helping out at senior living facilities and speaking with elders, but the simple enjoyment of one another's company is perhaps the best perk of all.