Interaction between older adults and children benefit both

We've all looked at busy, bouncing children and wondered, 'Where do they get all that energy?'  Grandparents or older adults in particular may feel daunted by the prospect of spending time with little ones.

But intergenerational activities can be easy and fun, not to mention good for you, says the Healthy Aging Partnership, a coalition of 40 Puget Sound area not-for-profit organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of older adults.

Interactions with young people allow older adults to relate to another generation, learn about new technology and trends and serve as role models for children growing into tomorrow's adults.

The excitement of seeing the world through younger eyes can get older adults "up and doing," reducing depression, relieving boredom and improving health.

Youngsters benefit, too. In situations where adult attention may be lacking, the attention and example provided by a senior mentor can be invaluable, HAP notes. Even teens who have difficulty relating to their immediate families may respond well to a caring older adult.

The Healthy Aging Partnership offers these suggestions for grandparents and others who want to play a bigger role in young lives:

* Be yourself. Youngsters will benefit from and enjoy having someone who listens and gives them their undivided attention.  

All too often parents don't have enough time to spend with their children and that's where you can help. Be a mentor and a friend.

* Arts and crafts, such as making a scrapbook, create great memories and allow you and a child to learn something new together.

* Youngsters love to help in the kitchen. The hands-on cooking exercise can be as simple as baking a box cake, with a little measuring and mixing.

* Gardening is another kid favorite. Dig in the dirt. Plant. Water. Sow fast-sprouting bean, pumpkin or sunflower seeds that grow with every visit.

* Go to the library.  Computers and video games may be the new thing, but you can never go wrong with a great story.  Teach them about something you love.  If you're excited about it, they will be too.

* If you don't have grandchildren of your own, volunteer to share an interest or skill with a local youth organization.

The American Red Cross, Intergenerational Innovations and Big Brothers, Big Sisters, just to name a few, can help connect older adults with young people in their community.

For more information on intergenerational activities or other issues related to life as an older adult, call 1-888-4ELDERS or visit

Jessica Adams writes articles about important health, family and community issues for non-profit organizations. You can contact her at 721-9540.

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